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A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

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A Visit from the Goon Squad is a story that discusses many different characters’ lives all at different times and places. Although several characters were introduced in this book, one character truly came full circle from the beginning to the end, and that person is Sasha Blake. Many events in her life, whether they be good, bad or in between, were discussed throughout the novel and many different aspects of Sasha were revealed. Although Sasha may have had a difficult past due to poor choices, she overcame her emotional wounds and accepted her new self by putting the past behind her, while hiding it from her children, proving that one’s past does not necessarily define ones future.

Sasha did not have an easy life growing up. For starters, she was raised by her parents, Beth and Andy, who did not get along well and had a rather violent relationship. Their marriage ended when Sasha was 5, after the results of “…Beth’s left shoulder, which Andy dislocated twice; and her collarbone, which he broke” (Egan 176). Although she was only a young girl, serious events such as domestic abuse and her parents’ divorce very well could have scarred her memory. This is one of the multiple events in Sasha’s early life that she tried so hard to forget about.

Another reoccurring issue that Sasha could not handle was her stealing problem. “She started shoplifting at thirteen with her girlfriends…seeing who could get away with more, it may have been an adolescent competition for them, but it was different for Sasha- it made her whole body glow” (156). This was the first sign of the potential for a destructive habit. As her therapist, Coz, would later say, “You’re aware of how the theft makes you feel, to the point where you remind yourself of it to improve your mood” (10). Eventually, her problem escalated from stealing from stores to stealing peoples’ personal belongings. Perhaps Sasha was trying to fill an emptiness inside and this was the only method that worked to fill that void. On one occasion, a plumber came to her house, “And once the screw driver was in her hand, she felt instant relief… a blessed indifference” (12). Stealing seemed to be her only escape from the real world; the aftermath left her with such ease that she could not experience any other way.

Sasha’s next incident occurs when she runs away at age 17. There was no true reason for why she fled, but it most likely had something to do with her not feeling wanted and the impulse of leaving with a member of a rock band. The trip fell apart, and she eventually wounded up in Naples, Florida, where Sasha put her shoplifting skills to use under a man named Lars. “She (Sasha) was a hooker… a hooker and a thief- that’s how she survived in Naples” (165). There, Sasha also got involved with drugs and let her life spiral even more out of control; Sasha had truly hit rock bottom.

At some point along the way, Sasha realized what her life had come to at that point. She was a young girl with her entire life ahead of her, yet she was wasting away with no job and no future. After returning to New York, she begins to get her life back on track, and when she discovers Rob after his attempt at suicide, she tells him “We’re the survivors” (161). They both had their difficult times, but together, she knows they can make it through anything. Looking back on her past, and her most recent events, she recalls, “that wasn’t me in Naples… I don’t know who it was. I feel sorry for her” (156). At this moment, Sasha regrets her past mistakes and plans to move on from those horrible times.

Sasha wanted to have a second chance at life and start over. Once she met Drew, she began to make those changes. “Drew knows nothing about how bad things were for Sasha in Naples, and lately you (Rob) have a feeling she’s starting to forget, begin over again as the person she is to Drew” (159). She begins to work for Bennie at Sow’s Ear Records as his assistant. She marries Drew and starts a family with him, having two children: Lincoln and Alison. Sasha does not completely forget about her past; as a matter of fact, she accepts her faults and mistakes, and learns from them. She did not make the best decisions in her youth, but she is determined to use her prior experience and knowledge to help prevent her kids from ever going down such a path as her own.
Alison becomes determined to know about her mother’s past. When she asks about those times in her mother’s life, Sasha replies, “I don’t trust my memories. It feels like another life. It’s all so imbued with my own struggles” (Egan, ch 12). Later, Alison tells her mom, “I want to know every bad thing you’ve done… including dangerous and embarrassing”. Sasha’s only reply is, “You can’t” (Egan, ch 12). This statement that Sasha made most likely left Alison with many questions; She can’t know? Her mother can’t tell her? Or maybe it’s not possible for her to know all of the bad things her mom had done in her past. Sasha left her response unknown because all of the ways that Alison could have interpreted that statement was her answer. Alison cannot know about her mother’s past; her mother cannot tell her about her own past, and it is not possible for her mother to explain every bad thing that happened to her because there are too many to name. Sasha’s past will forever be a mystery to her kids, and that is the way to plans to keep it.
Sasha had a very difficult childhood and her adolescence was cut short due to family troubles and personal issues. However, all of those troubling events and poor use of judgment did not define her as a person throughout her life. Sasha alone had “Fled an adolescence whose catalog of woes had included drug use, countless arrests for shoplifting, a fondness for keeping company with rock musicians, four shrinks, family therapy, and three suicide attempts, all of which Ted had witnessed from afar with a horror that gradually affixed to Sasha herself” (172). She overcame her troubled past and redefined herself as a hardworking and loving mother who would never let her kids know about her hardships in her past.




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