By Jennifer Egan
Publication Date: April 5, 2022
In the much-heralded sequel to A Visit From the Goon Squad (2010), The Candy House takes us (primarily) a generation into the future and focuses (mostly) on the children of the protagonists in Goon Squad. And that’s pretty much where the similarities end, at least as far as the story line goes.
Here’s the blurb: Bix Bouton, at 40, is a tech demi-god. He’s set for life, but desperate for a new idea. A random outing gives him the idea to create “Own Your Unconscious,” a new technology that allows anyone to download every memory they’ve ever had. If you upload yours to the cloud, you can tap into anyone’s memory, anywhere. This gives rise to “eluders,” those who either refuse to upload their memories and/or go off the grid, and “counters”, people who are paid to flesh out the eluders.
Goon Squad blew my mind when I read it a few years ago. I love interlocking narratives that swoop and flow and frankly, leave my mind boggled until I’ve had a chance to catch up, so I dove into this expecting to be dazzled and proclaim it brilliant. I will admit, I was a little disappointed for the first few chapters. Granted, they were set-up chapters but they were linear and written simply in 3rd person POV. I thought, “Is this it?”
Then came Lincoln, a counter, in a wonderfully deep POV I don’t think I could have pulled off in a million years. One paragraph in, I perked up and thought, “Here it is!” From that point on, I was captivated. The story line jumps into the future, then swoops back to the past, through different characters that are only tangentially related from chapter to chapter. Yet somehow, all of the subplots (and there are many) flow organically and most of them get tied up by the end of the book.
Granted, story takes second place to structure in this novel but what a ride! You never know what Egan will give you next. A tense chapter written in 2nd person POV as if I was reading an instruction manual, (that was Lulu, possibly my favorite chapter). Another story line taking place through emails/texts between no fewer than five people. Characters and plots popping up from Goon Squad. (You don’t have to have read Goon Squad to appreciate this novel, but it does add to the experience.)
I think my only critique would have been that, aside from the pacing of the first few chapters, was that I would have ended on Gregory’s chapter. I feel like his story closed the loop on the main plot line, rather than ending with Ames. Poor, forgotten Ames. Ironic that I could have done without his story.
Despite those for nit-picks, it was wonderful to read a novel that was, indeed, brilliant and lived up to my expectations.
This was definitely one of the best ARC copies I’ve received this year so a huge thank-you to Scribner and NetGalley for providing it. I’ve left an honest review voluntarily.
I rated this novel 4.5 stars. ⭐⭐⭐⭐+
Until next time, thank you for visiting.
My rating system:
5 stars – Wow, I could not stop thinking about this book and/or I wish I’d writtn it.
4 stars – This was an awesome novel, I’d recommend it to friends.
3 stars – This was a good novel, I will look for more by this author.
2 stars – An okay novel, but I probably won’t look for anything else by the author.
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