“Time’s a goon, right?” Right. Though it may seem like a collection of short stories at first, Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squadis actually an intricate web of lives thrust together. You could say the main characters are two people. A boss, Bennie Salazar, and his secretary, Sasha. Though the novel is filled with many other vibrant characters, it is these two that stand out the most. And it is these two that have a connection, however indistinct, to every other character in the novel.
The novel itself becomes like a puzzle. Each chapter, each individual story is an interlocking piece of a larger picture. Much like one of those digital art pieces you can buy at a poster store, made up of thousands of still images, each chapter in this novel can stand on its own, but when combined together the stories are a beautiful portrait.
And you don’t have to be a pure good person to make it okay in life. Even those who make mistakes end up well, because they’ve tried to make up for all the hurt they’ve caused, by doing good. It isn’t a matter of black and white, but different shades of gray, and sometimes color.
The way Egan meshes these character’s lives, is an obvious allegory to life itself. As you don’t see some people every day of your life, you only know what happens through snapshots. And so we are this additional character in the novel. Unspoken of, and not made reference to. And we just meet up with our friends through the years, and recall some of our favorite, and some of our worst memories. And we see their lives change as time goes by. A Visit from the Goon Squad tells us, throughout the course of the book, is that time can be a goon, but sometimes you can stop it from pushing you around. And the other times, you can always stop and listen to the pauses.