A Visit From the Goon Squad
I looked up the meaning of "goon squad" in the online Urban Dictionary. There are many definitions, besides the traditional one of hired thugs. The definition that best describes this book is "a group of slightly sketchy males, who drive fast even in [crumby] cars, wear aviators, blast music and smoke. The difference between these men and bros (besides the smoking) is that inside members of the goon squad have hearts of gold."
A Visit From the Goon Squad is, at first glance, a series of short stories about a group of people involved in the music industry. The first few chapters are difficult reading because the characters are ones you don't feel compelled to care too much about. They are train wrecks. Each chapter takes place in a different setting and time - New York City, San Francisco, a safari in Kenya, Naples, the Arizona desert. Each chapter also has its own style and voice - one spoken like a Bay Area punk rocker, one revealing forward flashes to future tragedies of members on safari, one a PowerPoint Presentation diary of a 12-year-old, one largely comprised of text messages.
As confusing as it begins, the author's talent as a writer draws you into the characters, revealing to her readers why some characters are such train wrecks, why others rise above their past. You begin to see how all the characters are inter-connected in some way, and how each has influenced the lives of others. You feel compelled to read on . . . until you get to the last chapter, where you realize the book has come full circle, but in the present, not the past where it started out. As one editorial review from Publisher's Weekly so aptly stated, "This powerful novel chronicles how and why we change, even as the song stays the same."
A Visit From the Goon Squad is indeed powerful, written in a creative, unorthodox style. Worthy of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction? You decide.