The Candy House

Jennifer Egan (Manhattan Beach) returns to the stylistic brio and edgy substance of her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Visit from the Goon Squad. The Candy House--named a Top Ten Best Book of 2022 by the New York Times Book Review, and a Best Book of 2022 by the New Yorker, NPR, Oprah Daily and Time--revives many of the characters of its literary soulmate while using them to explore a set of fresh and compelling themes.

In chapters that function both as discrete stories and devices that subtly link the lives of a handful of recurring characters, The Candy House ranges over more than seven decades, beginning in the mid-1960s. Egan conjures an unsettling but clearly plausible next stage of social media, where Internet visionary Bix Bouton invents a "memory externalization device" he calls the Mandala Cube, which allows individuals to upload and store a lifetime of memories in mere hours. If they choose, they can share those recollections with the "Collective Consciousness," granting them "proportionate access to the anonymous thoughts and memories of everyone in the world, living or dead, who had done the same." But as Egan recognizes, "knowing everything is too much like knowing nothing; without a story it's all just information." As she travels forward and backward in time, her stories reveal what is lost in the embrace of this new technology.

The Candy House holds a mirror up to contemporary society while simultaneously casting a skeptical eye on a future that may already be here. Readers who delighted in the ingenuity of A Visit from the Goon Squad will luxuriate in this novel's Easter eggs, making the urge to reread it immediately almost irresistible. While its sensibility is coolly observant, at its center is a warm, strongly beating heart. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

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