Jennifer Egan is a writer whose work I've come to admire. Though I seem to have read her books in reverse order, that feels rather fitting for this title.
Good Squad is a difficult piece to describe. In my mind, it's like a collage of tissue-paper circles that appear to have been placed at random onto a canvas so that they overlap and interlink to form a captivating image of swirls and colours. Upon closer examination, it transpires that they've all been carefully positioned in such a way that the visual effect is maximised and the emotional responses compounded.
There are thirteen stories, each superbly rounded and with an intensity that would grace any anthology were they to be included as individual tales. They are linked together in clever ways, using characters and time periods to make them one powerful whole.
I'm sure each reader will highlight their own particular interest as being core to proceedings. For me, it helped, initially, that the theme of the music industry was key, more so that it featured the trials and tribulations of moving on from the punk era into a world where those early rebellious cries became inevitably entangled with the world of commercialism. There are two characters who are at the heart of the collection and maintain the pulse, but there's a fantastically varied supporting cast who bring the pair to life.
The variety of stories is quite something and demonstrate that the mind of the author is vivid, inventive and unusual. Things that appear to appear simple on the surface emerge through the story-telling to be deep, moving and sometimes bizarre.
In essence, for me this is all about journeys through life and the way tangents, relationships, failures and successes form the way people develop. As time goes on, older experiences become paler and less powerful, yet they continue to hold onto personality and decision making and are ever-influential in the present and future. Tragedies, mishaps, moments of madness, insight and good fortune are all in the melting pot and there isn't anyone out there who doesn't have a web of interaction and memory to explore.
Breaking down the stories to give a sense of what they're about would be a fruitless task. Perhaps it would be better to mention that I was fascinated by it all and there were moments in there where the kicks were hard, whether they be of joy, humour, pain or sadness.
Such a work should have been challenging for me given that my memory is poor and that names and places are problematic for me. The issue was removed for me relatively painlessly by gentle nudges and reminders that allowed me to find my place in a way that few could pull off. These hooks were never clumsy or obvious and I was grateful for that.
It's not a novel (or at least, I don't think it is), yet it still needed an ending to leave me feeling totally satisfied. I've no idea how she pulled it off, but she did. Loose ends weren't exactly tied up, but everything fell into place.
I loved the variety and the depth and imagine you will, too. I read this a couple of months ago and still hear the echoes every now and then.