A Visit from the Goon Squad Summary and Study Guide
SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 35-page guide for “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 13 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Time and Meaning.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan tracks the passage of time in the lives of individuals in the rock music industry. The chapters defy conventional temporal and narrative chronologies, and each one is a self-contained episode in an unfolding network of stories, spanning six decades from the 1970s to the 2020s. The novel employs various narrative formats, such as the short story, the magazine article, and the graphic slide presentation. The variety of storytelling methods provides a variety of perspectives on the characters.
The first storyline to emerge in the novel is that of Sasha, who struggles with, among other issues, kleptomania. In “Found Objects,” Sasha is on a first date when she takes a wallet from the purse of a woman in the restaurant restroom. At this point, Sasha is no longer working as an assistant to Bennie Salazar, although the fact that she still talks about her boss indicates that she still identifies with that job. Through the course of the novel, we come to learn about Sasha’s difficult childhood and self-destructive youth. She eventually lives up to the promise in the opening chapter and experiences a form of healing. She marries her college boyfriend later in life, has two children and channels her interest in collecting personal objects into a form of artistic expression.
A second narrative arc in A Visit from the Goon Squad concerns Bennie, a divorced music executive in New York City; when we first encounter him, he is suffering anxieties about getting older and about his relationship with his young son. Through the course of the novel, we learn that, despite his financial success, Bennie’s insecurities about his physical appearance and ethnicity interfere with his aspirations to integrate into the privileged country club society in New York. By the end of the novel, Bennie has experienced failures in his career and his marriage and is now enjoying a second marriage and a renewal of his career through his reconciliation with his childhood friend, Scotty.
The character of Lou Kline provides more insight into Bennie’s character. Lou, a music producer in California, discovers Bennie as a teenager, and recognizes his potential when he goes to see Bennie’s band perform live. Lou lives a decadent lifestyle and eventually dies of a stroke. Much of Lou’s story is narrated through the stories of Rhea and Jocelyn, two teenaged best friends whom he takes under his wing, both literally and figuratively. Jocelyn becomes his lover when she is only seventeen years old, and is the means by which Bennie and Lou first meet. By the time Lou dies, he has lost a son, first through estrangement, and then to suicide.
Another story arc that features prominently in the novel is that of Dolly Peale. We first encounter her when she is known as La Doll, a PR superstar that Bennie’s wife works for. La Doll’s career falls into ruin when a malfunction at a high-profile party she organizes causes injury to a host of celebrities. She changes her name and takes on more discreet PR work, helping the despot of a developing country to improve his public image. When that project turns almost fatal for herself, her daughter, and a hired actress, Dolly gives up public relations altogether, and begins a new life as the proprietor of a small gourmet shop outside of New York City, where nobody knows about her past. Dolly’s daughter, Lulu, grows up and becomes Bennie Salazar’s new assistant.
The final chapters of A Visit from the Goon Squad project into the future, providing a vision of the world in the 2020s. The desert will become a familiar landscape in suburbia, while green lawns become a luxury item. Students will be taught to communicate using graphics rather than large blocks of written text. Communication devices will be in the hands of children as soon as they are able to point. People will favor text communication over face-to-face interaction. Despite these developments, however, the novel ends with a sense of optimism, where people still give birth to children and still come together to share music. Both of the main characters, Sasha and Bennie, experience redemption and renewal by building new relationships and finding new forms of expression.