A Visit from the Goon Squad

Narrated by: Roxana Ortega
Length: 10 hrs and 7 mins
4 out of 5 stars (240 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Jennifer Egan’s spellbinding interlocking narratives circle the lives of Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Although Bennie and Sasha never discover each other’s pasts, the listener does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs, over many years, in locales as varied as New York, San Francisco, Naples, and Africa.

We first meet Sasha in her mid-30s, on her therapist’s couch in New York City, confronting her long-standing compulsion to steal. Later, we learn the genesis of her turmoil when we see her as the child of a violent marriage, then as a runaway living in Naples, then as a college student trying to avert the suicidal impulses of her best friend. We plunge into the hidden yearnings and disappointments of her uncle, an art historian stuck in a dead marriage, who travels to Naples to extract Sasha from the city’s demimonde and experiences an epiphany of his own while staring at a sculpture of Orpheus and Eurydice in the Museo Nazionale. 

We meet Bennie Salazar at the melancholy nadir of his adult life - divorced, struggling to connect with his nine-year-old son, listening to a washed-up band in the basement of a suburban house - and then revisit him in 1979, at the height of his youth, shy and tender, reveling in San Francisco’s punk scene as he discovers his ardor for rock and roll and his gift for spotting talent. We learn what became of his high school gang - who thrived and who faltered - and we encounter Lou Kline, Bennie’s catastrophically careless mentor, along with the lovers and children left behind in the wake of Lou’s far-flung sexual conquests and meteoric rise and fall.

A Visit from the Goon Squad is an audiobook about the interplay of time and music, about survival, about the stirrings and transformations set inexorably in motion by even the most passing conjunction of our fates. In a breathtaking array of styles and tones ranging from tragedy to satire to PowerPoint, Egan captures the undertow of self-destruction that we all must either master or succumb to; the basic human hunger for redemption; and the universal tendency to reach for both - and escape the merciless progress of time - in the transporting realms of art and music. Sly, startling, exhilarating work from one of our boldest writers.

©2010 Jennifer Egan (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Pitch perfect.... Is there anything Egan can’t do in this mash-up of forms? Write successfully in the second person? Check. Parody celebrity journalism and David Foster Wallace at the same time? Check. Make a moving narrative out of a PowerPoint presentation? Check.... Although shredded with loss, A Visit from the Goon Squad is often darkly, rippingly funny. Egan possesses a satirist’s eye and a romance novelist’s heart.... No one is beyond the pale of her affection; no one is spared lampooning.... For a book so relentlessly savvy about the digital age and its effect on how we experience time (speeded up, herky-jerky, instantaneous, but also full of unbearable gaps and pauses), A Visit from the Goon Squad is remarkably old-fashioned in its obsession with time’s effects on characters, that preoccupation of those doorstop 19th-century novels.” (Will Blythe, The New York Times Book Review)

“If Jennifer Egan is our reward for living through the self-conscious gimmicks and ironic claptrap of postmodernism, then it was all worthwhile.... A deeply humane story about growing up and growing old in a culture corroded by technology and marketing.... [A] triumph of technical bravado and tender sympathy.... Here, in ways that surprise and delight again, she transcends slick boomer nostalgia and offers a testament to the redemptive power of raw emotion in an age of synthetic sound and glossy avatars. Turn up the music, skip the college reunion and curl up with The Goon Squad instead.” (Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“It may be the smartest book you can get your hands on this summer.” (Carolyn Kellogg, The Los Angeles Times

What members say
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Nice story, terrible narration/ performance

I really love the writing style, the characters, the close realism that draws you into the details of the surroundings and atmosphere of this book.

I cannot stand the narrator. She never stops whispering as if she's reading a story to a toddler about to fall asleep. There is ZERO effort or emphasis or character put into this performance, it is almost unlistenable. Attention to the narrator: SPEAK UP!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Deep and dazzling novel, brilliantly read!

I'd read and been very impressed by Jennifer Egan's recent novel, Manhattan Beach, so I wanted to try her Pulitzer Prize winner. I'm not in the least surprised that it won that and other awards. Her imagination as a spinner of fiction is remarkable and breathtaking. It is in full flower as she takes us on a journey through interlocking stories in which a number of powerfully drawn characters appear and reappear at different times in their lives. Indeed this is a journey through time (though not always in chronological order) and the changes the Goon Squad of time inexorably brings the book's characters. As in all our lives, some changes are better than others. I strongly recommend taking this journey, and in particular with Ms. Ortega, whose imaginative reading brings the brilliance of the book fully to life. At times, I couldn't tell which was impressing me more, the fiction or the reading. This great reader makes text and narration a single marvelous whole.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Not a book, a collection of short stories

The writing is very well done but the book or various short stories ties together but there is no point to the book.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

OK...

Lovely descriptive writing. Parts got tiring.. narrator’s male voices a bit annoying.. but I listened to the whole thing, which is better than many other books I’ve downloaded on Audible..

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Don't waste your time.

I honestly don't know why I finished listening to this book. Never had me intrigued. I feel like the book is pointless and a waste of time. I saw this book on a couple of "must read in your lifetime" lists and can't figure out why. It has no substance and is often boring or confusing. Like why was this 1hour long chapter in the book? This character isn't connected in anyway to the others and isn't relevant to the story.
The performance was not right for the story either. It was dramatic in ways that it actually made the story a little more confusing and hard to follow, because when you listen to the story the narrator gives the story a guide in how the scene should feel, if that makes any sense.
But to sum it up this review just skip it and keep looking for another book.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

An innovative masterpiece

This story is told in a brilliantly innovative way that kept my brain trying to connect dots in time. Time plays a role like a character in this story. The characters are finely wrought; no caricatures to be found. This is the first book of Egan's I've read, and now I'm looking for more.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Really fun stories

As with most short story collections, some of the stories are stronger than others, but overall this was a really fun read. It was especially interesting to see how each of the stories connected. I would up googling to see if I could find a character map online and found a couple of really cool ones. I may listen again at some point, and I rarely read/listen to the same book twice.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

narrator's voice spoils it

solid book but not perfect for listening. the narrative is too disjointed. works when reading, not listening. the narrator's whispery, over-articulated voice grates.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Pulitzer?

I try to read any novel that's won a Pulitzer or a Booker prize. But this one didn't do it for me. I think it suffers in the audio format a bit. I felt like the connection between some of the stories was too loose and hard to follow. In fact, there is one story that I have no idea who the main person is and what his connection is to the others. So... I don't know that this would have been the same in print.

I also didn't feel like there was an overarching connection between the stories that ultimately made them more meaningful, which is something I definitely wanted in this type of format. The thing that saved this book for me was the ending, which does pull the stories together in an interesting way. It's just more momentary than I would have expected from a book that won such a prestigious award.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant on all!

Excellent listen! Do not miss this! Narrator is brilliant with easing, subtle adjustments between the characters' different ages and sexes, breathing life into their personalities and making them as real as the author has.