Hesitancy kept me from Jennifer Egan’s work for far too long. I’d been introduced to various chapters of A Visit from the Goon Squad at the Ohio State University in 2014, and didn’t glance back until a peer told me it was his favorite novel. I bought a paperback copy of the Pulitzer winner, put it in my bookcase, and let it ferment until the day came that I needed it…and when that day came I was so grateful for it. I was angry with myself, too, for having neglected it in the abyss of my hypothetical TBR pile. It helped to spark a project I’m still working on.
A follow-up/companion novel was published in 2022. The Candy House revisits some characters from A Visit from the Goon Squad, introduces others, and spans through lifetimes. This novel has similar features in that the narratives are fractured, jumping from characters and through time, all while crafting a cohesive world where the focus is no longer on the human follies that take shape in the music industry, but on a piece of science fiction where individual psychology forges a connection between the reader and every person on the page. Egan’s prose had me placing the book down at times to allow a line to linger over my thoughts. Its brokenness is a feature, not a bug, and as art, it’s a most beautifully written piece of work.
Depression had taken me away from reading in 2022. I sought to purchase The Candy House the day it was released, but my local bookstore didn’t have it on hand. I went to Twitter and made some noise about it. I wasn’t sure what this would accomplish, but Jennifer Egan personally reached out to me to ask which store didn’t have it. I felt as though I’d gotten someone in trouble, but gave the details anyway. She sent autographed copies to my local shop, and the shop reached out to me since I had inquired about it. I was so excited that I took it home, sent pictures and the story to my friends, and let it sit in my bookcase until December. Once I had found the wherewithal to read it, I felt revitalized by the first chapter/story. It’s all so rich with human honesty. Tension and drama I associate with familial ties are woven throughout, all with a drop or two of science fiction that doesn’t overcompensate…no; it drives the story forward without being over the top. It’s a modest vehicle for that which alienates us and brings us together in the same sweeping gesture/function.
I’m sorry if this seems rambling. It’s hard to pin down that feeling when literature makes you feel alive, but this book has done it for me. I can’t recommend The Candy House enough. I hope I’m not going too far in saying this, but it was better than Goon Squad…on that note…read them both.