While I had heard a million great things about “THE HELP,” I have heard very mixed reviews about “A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD” by Jennifer Egan. Which, I have to admit, really intrigued me as to why most people seem to either absolutely love or absolutely hate this book.
I can’t quite say that I loved this book, but I did enjoy it once I got the hang of it. It is quite hard to understand and get into at the beginning. Each of the 13 chapters is narrated by a different character, who is generally a minor character from the previous chapter. If you don’t know this ahead of time (like I didn’t) it takes a few chapters to learn that and to really understand. It makes for a frustrating read at the beginning – especially since Egan usually doesn’t reveal the character’s name until a page or two into the chapter. But, once you understand that’s what’s going on, it can almost become a game to figure out who the next character is going to be.
Which brings me to a couple of my main issues with this book. Barring one or two exceptions, the characters are not likeable. I was actually almost glad when chapters were ending and I got to meet a different character. I also did not enjoy chapter 10, which was the only chapter written in second person. In a book where enough different things are going on, I felt it was a little extreme. If you can get past the unlikeability of the characters and the odd Chapter 10, it does make for an interesting read.
There’s been lots of chatter about the chapter done in Power Point and whether or not people like it. I’ve even read some speculation that the Power Point is the only reason that this book won the Pulitzer Prize. I was intrigued. But the presentation, within context of the book, actually makes sense. It is actually part of the narrator, Ally’s, life. I enjoyed the chapter, and it once again reminded me that sometimes simple words and phrases can have a much deeper meaning and resonate further than long, drawn-out sentences.
In all, I did find this book to be an interesting and overall enjoyable read. I did want to read to the very last page, which is sometimes a difficult thing for me. That said, I can definitely understand how this is not a book for everyone. It’s a book that the reader must concentrate on, figure out how to navigate, and read with an open mind.
Here are some other Pulitzer Prize winners worth a read:
2010 “TINKERS” by Paul Harding
2009 “OLIVE KITTERIDGE” by Elizabeth Strout
2008 “THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO“by Junot Diaz
2007 “THE ROAD” by Cormac McCarthy
2006 “MARCH“ by Geraldine Brooks
2005 “GILEAD” by Marilynne Robinson
2004 “THE KNOWN WORLD” by Edward P. Jones
2003 “MIDDLESEX“ by Jeffrey Eugenides
2001 THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY” by Michael Chabon
2000 “INTERPRETER OF MALADIES” by Jhumpa Lahiri
Click here for a more complete list of the winners since it all began in 1948.
What did you think? Did you love or hate “A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD?” Can you think of any similar books in style and taste? Better yet, what’s your favorite Pulitzer Prize-winning novel? Make a comment below to enter for a chance to win a free book! Just enter your name and email address and tell me which is your favorite Pulitzer Prize winning book. Winner will be randomly selected.
— Kristen B.