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Editorial Reviews

Jennifer Egan's several novels and collections of short stories have always been well received, and this book will be no exception. It is a novel, but each chapter holds it own. Like a devious love child of Colum McCann and Bret Easton Ellis, the whole fabric of these characters' lives slides together piece by ugly piece. Egan is a little less heart-wrenching than McCann and a little more moralistic than Ellis, but the total package here is one that will delight many kinds of readers.

The strange treat in this postmodern ensemble is newcomer narrator Roxana Ortega. A veteran of the soap opera scene, occasional improv comic, and supporting actress in films like Miss Congeniality 2, Ortega brings a surprisingly bold and wonderfully solid set of voices to Egan's cast of haunted characters. She begins all breathy and languid with Sasha, the eternally distant and bored kleptomaniac, but then draws listeners closer and closer, starting with the forlorn but gruff Bennie, once a handsome punk rocker and now an aging exec trying to stay on top of the scene. The most delightful segment is Ortega's deftly poetic rendering of little Alison's diary, which in the novel appears as a PowerPoint presentation.

Here's the thing about punk rock: there is always some kind of adventure around the next corner, until one day you wake up old, cold, and sold. This novel contains a lion trying to rip someone's face off, an autistic boy who collects songs that have moments of silence in them, a genocidal dictator taking photos with a burnt-out actress, a bag full of East River fish juice, a couple of wicked awesome lap steel and slide guitar solos, and a truckload of smartphone devices. As time marches forward, backward, and sideways in Egan's portrait of a once-cool music empire now dwarfed by modern technology and fading fast, Ortega gracefully jumps from generation to generation, wondering what went wrong for these people and try to help them get it back. —Megan Volpert

Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2011

National Book Critics Circle Award, Fiction, 2011

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction!

Jennifer Egan brings her unique gifts as a novelist and short story writer to a compulsively listenable narrative that centers on Bennie Salazar, an aging punk rocker and record executive, and the beautiful Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs.

Bennie and Sasha never discover each other's pasts, but the listener does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other people whose paths intersect with theirs in the course of nearly 50 years, in settings as various as the San Francisco 1970s music scene; the demimonde of Naples; New York at many points, from the pre-internet 90s to a postwar future; and a catastrophic safari in the heart of Africa.

A Visit from the Goon Squad is a book about time, about survival, about our private terrors and how we overcome them or don't, and what happens when we fail to rebound. Brilliant, sly, suspenseful, and always surprising - one of our boldest authors at the height of her powers.

©2010 Jennifer Egan. All rights reserved. (P)2010 BBC Audiobooks America

Critic Reviews

"Readers will be pleased to discover that the star-crossed marriage of lucid prose and expertly deployed postmodern switcheroos that helped shoot Egan to the top of the genre-bending new school is alive in well in this graceful yet wild novel." ( Publishers Weekly)
“Pitch perfect. . . . Darkly, rippingly funny. . . . Egan possesses a satirist’s eye and a romance novelist’s heart.” ( The New York Times Book Review)
“A new classic of American fiction.” ( Time)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Krissy
  • Nahant, MA, United States
  • 09-03-12

Drove Cross Country with Jennifer Egan!

Loved it--I couldn't wait to get back in the car for my 3,000-mile road-trip each day so that I could continue to listen to this magnificent book. Compelling, amazing characters, interesting plot, insights into the psyche--it's all there!

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Lacee
  • Temple, United States Minor Outlying Islands
  • 08-16-12

A Must Read!

What made the experience of listening to A Visit from the Goon Squad the most enjoyable?

It was very surprising to me. I have to admit that I stopped it about 30 minutes into it, and didn't pick it back up for about three months. I found it strange at first, all the different characters. Then I found myself really getting into the audio and I couldn't put it down. My advice to anyone is stick with it, because once it was over... I was like "This seriously is one of the best books I've experienced!" I actually want to buy the hard copy and read it myself.

What was one of the most memorable moments of A Visit from the Goon Squad?

Wow, there really are a lot of memorable moments, but for me... I couldn't help but fall in love with Rob Freeman. As screwed up as Bennie and Sasha are, I loved their characters too.

What about Roxana Ortega’s performance did you like?

I thought she did a good job.

Who was the most memorable character of A Visit from the Goon Squad and why?

The most memorable is of course Bennie Salazar and then Sasha. Mainly because every story involves them in some way. Even if they are not in that story.

Any additional comments?

I really liked La Doll and I felt sorry for her. It is like I said earlier though, Rob was my favorite. You know in the beginning something is going to happen to him, but until Jennifer Egan leads you to his story, you haven't a clue what's really going to happen, and then when you find out... it is overwhelming how much love you wind up finding yourself have for this young man. Also, if you find yourself thinking, I am confused and I don't want to listen anymore. Please listen! The reason is... I thought Jennifer Egan did a great job of tying everything together at the end.

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  • Elaine
  • Shaker Heights, OH, United States
  • 05-29-12

not for me

rarely do I not finish a book, but I couldn't get interested in the characters and
their exploits.

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

Deserved the Pulitzer

Where does A Visit from the Goon Squad rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Friends say I have a twisted sense of humor and this book fits the bill!

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

Worth listening to the end

I didn't like the characters at the start of this story, but it's worth sticking with the book as the characters change with each chapter. The author builds on earlier chapters, introducing new characters related in fascinating ways to earlier characters. I enjoy the side-tracks the author takes in various places, seemingly going off track. There are many astute observations of human nature in this book. It's not a 5-star book on my list because I thought the wrap up/ending seemed contrived.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Really Breaks Down

I enjoyed the first half of this book very much. The next 1/4 was a little tedious and the final 1/4th unbearable. The book runs out of gas just doesn't go forward with any torque or strength after the mid point.

That said, it's an interesting approach but I can't recommend it as worth the time.

Chris Reich

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Not Pulitzer Worthy

Apparently, the committee who selects the Pulitzer Prize for fiction is easily impressed with narrative tricks. The story moves forward and backward in time and switches voices and characters repeatedly. That's all good and well, but it leaves the reader wanting something. The story seems to revolve around two central characters whose stories are told not just through their perspectives, but the perspectives of those that surround them as well. Often, these connections gets stretched too thin: character development remains somewhat superficial. It comes off more as a collection of short stories than a novel.

The narrator for this title spoke a little too slowly for my taste. I had to stop listening after an hour or so because I was driving and thought I was going to nod off. I don't think her voice is the right pitch for me. I think she did a good job of differentiating voices, but that still seemed somewhat generic to me.

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Not sure why it was so lauded

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Depends on whether the friend would be interested in its particular subject matter

How could the performance have been better?

the narrator's voice probably ruined this book for me. It was monotone and it was hard to tell when different characters were speaking

Did A Visit from the Goon Squad inspire you to do anything?

wonder about the pulitzer requisites

Any additional comments?

I think the writing is exceptional, and I think the narration on this audiobook did detract from its story. Overall though I am not sure why the book was so praised, it offered a dance of tangled characters whose connection wasn't always clear till too late in the particular story. Suspense was done well throughout.

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  • Deirdre
  • MANHATTAN BEACH, CA, United States
  • 12-30-11

Great Book But Better to Read in Print

I read the print version in addition to listening to the audio book. I liked reading the book much better than listening to it. I think the narration was really good, but the story does not translate that well to the audio in my opinion. If I had to do it over, I would not have chosen the audio version to listen to. This book is not really a traditional narrative at all. The style is not so plot-centric. Some of the chapters were really very good to listen to, while others were difficult because of stylistic choices, such as a chapter with many footnotes and a chapter written entirely in Power Point. If I had not read the book previously, I am sure these would have been confusing. Further, there are a lot of characters that fade in and out, and I think they were far easier to keep straight in print. I loved this book. It definitely deserved all of the accolades it won. I would just recommend it in print, as opposed to the audio version.

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  • Justin
  • Saint Louis, MO, United States
  • 12-01-11

Great selection...

I try not to read too much about the books that I purchase because I enjoy learning about them as I go... So when The Good Squad ended up being a collection of short stories, I was pleasantly surprised!

I usually like to actually read short stories instead of listen to them - so had I known the book was short stories - I normally wouldn't have purchased it to listen. But I'm really glad I didn't know and that I did get a chance to listen to this interesting group of characters.

The book was a lot of fun to listen to and Jennifer Egan finds a way to connect all of the characters involved - so you get to see them in different chapters and at different time periods of their lives and interacting with the other characters - which was very interesting!

I purchased this book because it won the Pulitzer and now it's being turned into a TV show on HBO, which I think will be very cool! I had just gotten finished listening to Freedom by Franzen and I wanted something different and stumbled onto this...

I enjoyed Ortega's reading and take on the characters... the story moved quickly and it was neat to see how all of the characters intersected at different points. I think I would have liked to actually see and read the power point chapter... but Ortega did a good job of narrating something written entirely in power point.

I would definitely recommend this selection for anyone who likes really well-written short stories and likes narratives that shift in time.