One of the best things about being a bookseller, wherever you are, is the possibility of developing relationships with authors that have the potential to go beyond fandom. Because of the serendipity of where I live, I happen to be neighbors to some of the contemporary greats.  It's not without its pitfalls though.  I remember having a nice chat with a nice lady named Jennifer in the bookstore sometime in Year 1, finding out she had written a book, and picking it up -- and gradually becoming aghast that I had been treating this person as a normal human neighbor, when in fact they were a terrifying genius. The book was A Visit From The Goon Squad, which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. 

Luckily Jenny Egan seemingly forgave me for treating her like a regular neighbor (and for all my other faux pas, including vastly under-ordering for the Goon Squad launch party, which we've hopefully made up for by selling hundreds of copies every year since then and shipping signed copies to her fans all over the country.) She's occasionally gracious enough to meet me for coffee, and talk about our respective kids and the state of the world and the book industry and the neighborhood, almost like a normal human. (And then I'll read another book and be flabbergasted and starstruck again.)

All of which is just preamble to the fact that her new book comes out on Tuesday, and we're hosting another launch at St. Joseph's College.  I'll be doing the intro, and trying not to make a fool of myself yet again.  The below is what I sent to Jenny's publisher when I first read the manuscript of the book back in August; I'm so excited everyone else is about to have this flabbergasting reading experience too.


The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

Whenever a writer as consistently brilliant as Jennifer Egan comes out with a new book, I always have a moment of trepidation: what if they can't pull off the same miracle again?  With The Candy House, she doesn't: the miracles are entirely new.  

Yes, the book is kindred to Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad with myriad connections to that constellation of characters; I think it's also reminiscent of Joan Silber's ordinary, epic, interconnected life stories and David Mitchell's ambitious structures and timelines and compassion for flawed characters.  

But Jennifer Egan is a genius like no one else, her triumphs literally dizzying: careening plots, rich and nuanced emotions, merciless humor, priceless set pieces, bold formal experiments, astonishing reversals and thematic connections and deepenings.  There's some kind of magic afoot here, as the world she creates expands and contracts simultaneously and scenes get both stranger and more intimately familiar.  

I couldn't imagine how Egan would riff on the scarily prescient imagined future of 2010's Goon Squad, but Candy House raises the stakes on both the imagination and the cultural relevance of a world close to our own, maybe one jump over from us in the multiverse.  The many threads of this world are held together by the characters' connections to each other and the endless variations of their desires -- fame, familial approval, social advancement, art, love, freedom, euphoria -- that beckon witchily and always come with a price.  

These characters make so many mistakes, both predictable and original, but the reader always wants the best for them.  And sometimes, impossibly, Egan shows us a way that they, and we, are going to be alright; how they, and we, might actually have power to make the world better -- which also feels a little like a miracle.


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