Jennifer Egan's "A Visit from the Goon Squad" is a collection of short stories that feels like a novel.
Eagan tells each story about different people; she tells each from a different point of view; and she writes each in a different style. The chapters appear out of sequence chronologically, which may confuse the reader. But it works. Characters cross over into one another's tales: a peripheral character in one story becomes the focus of another. They all tie together by their association with the music industry - particularly with the "Sow's Ear" record company and its employees.
The author frequently introduces plot points before clarifying these points a hundred pages later. In one story, we learn that a mutual friend recently died. Later, the author relates a visit to this friend on his deathbed. A character appears after serving a prison sentence for attempted rape. Later, we read a first-person account of the assault.
Egan swings the narrative style significantly from story to story. One sounds as if a teenage girl is relating the incidents to her friends (for example, using "goes" as a synonym for "talks"); another is a narcissistic article that is supposed to be a report of a celebrity interview; another is a series of PowerPoint slides that describes a family's relationship with an autistic son, who has an obsession with the pauses in rock songs.
The "Goon" of the book's title is the passage of Time. Time changes people - sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Time separates us and occasionally reunites us later in our lives. We can look back with fondness, regret, or pride, but there is no returning to the past. One character laments, "Time's a goon, right? You gonna let that goon push you around?" As one who has grown and struggled and rebounded through six decades of ups and downs, this theme resonated.
I found Egan's nonlinear storytelling compelling. I loved how she clarified events as the novel went on. "Goon Squad" is a beautiful mosaic that allows the reader to peek into personal lives at critical points.