This is an earlier book by Jennifer Egan. The Candy House that I wrote about recently is a sequel. Egan is massively talented, and Goon Squad is as impossible to put down as The Candy House.
Egan’s getting better at her craft, and while the earlier book is great, it’s still not as accomplished as its sequel.
Even within Goon Squad we can observe the writer’s growth. The earlier chapters are weaker than the later ones. For instance, at the beginning of the book Egan gives little summaries of what happens to the characters after the episode she narrates. (“Lou will marry Mindy and they’ll have two daughters, the youngest of whom will inherit his business after he dies, etc.”) The fussy concern over how the reader imagines what happens next and the desire to control that process is a mark of an inexperienced author. An accomplished writer feels secure enough in her talent to avoid trying to tell people how they should read or understand her book. Thankfully, Egan dropped this annoying habit after the first half of Goon Squad.
I’m very glad I discovered this writer. Egan doesn’t teach any lessons or offer any profound insights. What she offers is a completely unmarred, unmessed-with, narcotizing pleasure of reading. Her books are very enjoyable to read. And that’s what makes a great writer.
Excellent, excellent writer. Real literature.