Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad is just the kind of book I like, so my year is off to a good start. It's clever and original, complicated but not difficult to read. It's funny and a bit sad at the same time. It's also got some intricate plotting that I really enjoyed: characters who loop around one another, showing up unexpectedly in one another's chapters for surprise visits.
Is this a novel or a series of linked short stories? I'm not sure, though I'd vote for the latter. Egan assembles a cast of about a dozen characters who have connections to one another and serves up stories about them at various points in their lives. The stories skip around in time from the near future back to the 1970s. Characters evolve, or de-evolve, as the case may be.
This kind of approach is tricky because it's easy to leave dangling ends, but Egan ties everything up pretty well and makes it look simple.
I tried to figure out whether there was one character at the center of the tangle, someone with connections to everyone. Is it Bennie? It could be fun to draw some kind of graphic with lines indicating how everyone is connected to each other, but I don't have the attention span for that kind of thing. I'm already on to my next book.
Becky Holmes blogs about books at A Book A Week.