Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Reads: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

The first time I read the sounded ok but I wasn't sure I wanted to read it.  Then the reviews started to pour in on all sides - washing over me like a giant wave - and I found myself longing to read it.  Nay - NEEDING to read it.  It took me a while to get to it, but I am so glad it made the Must-Read list.

In a nutshell - the book follows a really scattered timeline, spanning approximately 40 years. The main characters are Bennie Salazar (a record producer, who never narrates) and Sasha, his assistant. The narrator changes between Sasha and the other auxillary characters and it jumps back and forth on that timeline until you almost reach the point where you have no clue where you are.  But in the end - the story all comes together and shows you where these characters end up in the future. I'm not going to go too in depth with the plot line because it would be hard to not spoil it for anyone wanting to read it.   Just be assured the story will draw you in.

I've read a fair few books with timelines like this so I didn't really have much trouble keeping track of where the story was and noticing how the different characters were woven into it.   I particularly liked the way that Egan wove characters who had played a really small part in the history into more important roles that they happen into in later days.

The one chapter that gets great raves is the one where Sasha's daughter (in the future) tells the story in her "slide journal" - a journal in PowerPoint format.   It was cleverly done and a very unique way to bring in a 12 year old's diary, but MAN was it tough to read on my reader.  White text on grey gradient backgrounds...I missed half of the wording.  Since I read this on my Kobo - it also had one annoying trait that the print book might not have had.  I was falling asleep before I finished that PowerPoint chapter so I bookmarked it and vowed to finish it over breakfast...and when I turned the reader on again - it had shunted me back to the start of the chapter again!  Oy vay!  But that's an ebook gripe more than a book/content gripe.

I do recommend this one, but with a caveat.  If you like your books to happen in a really linear fashion - you might find this one difficult to follow.   It jumps around A LOT.  Mindless reading, this is not.   If you're looking for a read that makes you think and keeps you following along, then pick this one up.  It's well worth it. Egan is a masterful storyteller and I found it very hard to put down.  If I had more hours in a day and a lesser need for sleep - I would have plowed through this in a single sitting.

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