A Visit from the Goon Squad is the newly minted Pulitizer Prize winner in fiction.
My book club selected it just before the winners were announced, clearly making us on the cusp of literary trends. Or something.
I have to say, I'm not quite sure how to review this renowned work, because, well, because I didn't love it.
In fact, it took me 251 pages to like it. Why?
Plot: I'm not sure you can say this book had a plot. At least not in the traditional beginning, middle, climax, end terms of plotting.
The book revolves around two characters -- Benny Salazar and Sasha. He's a record exec, she's his assistant. Over the course of a couple hundred pages, the reader is plunged into their world, and the worlds of their friends and acquaintances. The book starts in one decade, takes a jump back a decade, and then leaps two decades forward. It's all over the place and I felt a bit like a pinball, being thrust from one place and person to the next, not really remembering where I was or who these people were.
Characters: The book shines on the character front. I spent early parts of the book wondering why the heck I was supposed to care about this washed up record executive and his klepto assistant. But the secondary characters are quirky, outlandish and heartbreaking. And after awhile, even Sasha and Benny grow on you. The only frustrating part was because of the volume of characters and the lack of a coherent structure/plot, I had trouble remembering who was who and linking them to one another.
Finally, in the last three chapters (the future, so to speak) the characters start to come together and I saw the overarching theme. This made both the plot and the characters gel and made me (finally!) appreciate both.
Structure: What structure? Sure, there were chapters (one is comprised entirely of PowerPoint slides!), but without any sort of chronological or other obvious timing cue, the reader just gets lost. The timing cues are embedded in the dialogue and descriptions and frankly, it took more work and re-reading on my part than I care to invest in following a story.
It's hard for me to judge this one. As much as I hated the book until the very end, I also have an appreciation for it now that I've finished it and see the whole picture. I will say that had this been a collection of short stories, I would have loved it.
At the end of the day, it's different. It's modern. It gives us a glimpse of the intensity at which the world is changing as that goon, time, passes us by. For these reasons, I can see why it won the Pulitzer. But for me, I have to go with a measly 3 stars.