Recently I read a book that I really really liked: A Visit From the Goon Squad. The characters are dynamic (and many). The story is enthralling. But then, it’s not too hard to find enthralling stories with dynamic characters these days.
What Egan does uniquely well in Goon Squad was create a cohesive picture of one person’s life. Egan uses the usual storytelling techniques like flashback, flashforwards, foreshadowing, and glimpses. But at her best she goes beyond them; she enables the reader to experience two separate moments–which occur at different times and in different countries–simultaneously.
And when I say simultaneously, I mean in a single sentence. About midway through the novel we are following Sasha and her uncle through the streets of Naples. We are enveloped in their Italian escapades. And in a mere sentence, Egan takes us to the States, 30 years in the future. For one stunning moment we are in Naples and Nevada, in the 20th century and in the 21st century.
Because of small moments like these we see the characters with an omniscient eye. We see mystery and the beauty in their lives that they themselves never see. It makes me think that if we could see our own lives with that same all-knowing eye, surely we would realize that ours are just as amazing and mysterious.