Friday, June 24, 2016

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

After a recent dry spell of disappointing novels, I happened upon Jennifer Egan’s 2010 Pulitzer Prize winning novel A Visit from the Goon Squad while trolling Overdrive for available downloads. During my recent spate of audio book borrowing,  I’ve noticed that unless the pacing and writing is beautifully crafted, I find my mind wandering to other things during my walks and drives as the book plays like so much white noise in the background. This is patently not the case for the audio version of Egan’s novel.  Written almost as a series of vignettes of a large cast of characters, A Visit from the Goon Squad is hard to put down and easy to pick up. Written with a wit so sharp a reader might hurt themselves, it held my attention from the introduction of its first character, Sasha, the former assistant of music executive Benny Salazar. Sasha is a kleptomaniac with a wry sense of humor and a hopeful, but realistic outlook. During her stint as the book’s protagonist, she reflects on her attempts at recovery, her relationship with Benny, and the pleasure she takes stealing; screw drivers, a child’s scarf, a note found in a lover’s wallet, bath salts, et cetera. The novel’s point of view then gracefully shifts to Benny himself, like a relay racer handing off a baton, and the story takes up, not from where Sasha left off, but before, during a time when she was still employed by the aging, desperate Benny Salazar.  Benny, for his part, laments his divorce and his apparent loss of libido during the day-in-the-life-of snapshot of his life that is chapter two.  The novel next picks up, over 30 years earlier with the tale of Benny’s high school friend in 1979. Here we are treated to a glimpse of the emerging Punk scene in San Francisco, and are also introduced to Benny’s future music industry mentor, Lou, as seen through the eyes of seventeen year old Rhea. The novel then journeys back five years earlier to an African safari and the point of view of Lou’s then lover and nanny of his children during a ten-day African safari.  The novel continues to introduce several other characters all somehow connected to Benny and/or Sasha as it winds back and forth through time.  Each of these segments or chapters could easily stand alone as a short story, as each is vivid and captivating in its own right.  Each and every person is written with care and insight, and as a fan of character-driven stories, I couldn’t be more pleased with their development. If you’re looking for a well-written book with a thoughtful and intimate take on human frailty and redemption, A Visit from the Goon Squad is available for checkout at the Delphi Public Library in hardback, audio, and EBOOK format.

-Jennifer Wilson

Friday, June 17, 2016

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Mind bending and mind boggling, this is a unique take on the traditional suspense thriller. I loved trying to stretch my brain around Jason Dessen's predicament, existing in the "multiverse." Can you imagine another version of you operating in a parallel universe? The idea is that every time you make an observable choice, another version of you branches off into another universe. Infinitely. One taking the choice, and the other making a different choice. Think of the trunk of a tree branching off over and over. And then imagine that you could access all those infinite worlds. It's enough to give you a major headache, right? Well, don't worry, you don't have to figure it out; the genius physicist Jason Dessen can do that for you. Jason Dessen is pulled into the multiverse and then struggles mightily to find his world again. This means traveling to all these worlds and seeing versions of himself and his family, sometimes behaving badly. When you read Dark Matter you're just along for the ride. And it's a thrilling one. This book will be published in July, but you can get your name on the hold list at the library NOW! P.S. Blake Crouch is the author of the Wayward Pines books and tv series. He likes weird stuff.

Submitted by Kelly Currie