Monday, February 27, 2023

REVIEW: The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

So I just finished The Candy House and I am hungry to find friends who've read it so that I can hash out all of my thoughts. I don't even know how I feel about any of it and I kinda like that I am this mixed up. On the one had, I really loved the episodic, non-linear experimental way that Jennifer Egan put this together (having not read her other works, I've heard this is just her style?). It kept me on my toes and forced me to stop trying to read it in my normal way. I had to give myself permission to not try and connect all the dots and know all the things; I had to relax and enjoy it for the journey that it was. As much as I enjoyed that, I also was uncomfortable with it. I didn't always like not knowing how the puzzle pieces fit and I hated thinking I was missing something or that I was missing the point because I couldn't see the small picture inside the bigger one. 

Days later, I'm still pondering all the things that The Candy House brought up about technology and relationships and how those work separately and together, about the ripple effect of relationships and how one innocuous moment can influence the entire life of someone, about how the more we progress, we sometimes seem to regress, and maybe at the heart of all of this the ideas of loneliness and grief and loss and desire and love and connection. 

I've talked two of my colleagues and friends into reading The Candy House and I cannot wait to hear what they think and why they think it. 


* Named a Top Ten Best Book of 2022 by The New York Times Book Review, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Slate * Named a Best Book of 2022 by The New Yorker, NPR, Oprah Daily, Time, Harper's Bazaar, Entertainment Weekly, Esquire, Vogue, and many more! *

“A compelling read that showcases Egan’s masterful storytelling.” —Time
“Dazzling.” —
“Radiant, exhilarating.” —
“Mesmerizing…A thought-provoking examination of how and why we change.” —

From one of the most celebrated writers of our time comes an “inventive, effervescent” (Oprah Daily) novel about the memory and quest for authenticity and human connection.

The Candy House opens with the staggeringly brilliant Bix Bouton, whose company, Mandala, is so successful that he is “one of those tech demi-gods with whom we’re all on a first name basis.” Bix is forty, with four kids, restless, and desperate for a new idea, when he stumbles into a conversation group, mostly Columbia professors, one of whom is experimenting with downloading or “externalizing” memory. Within a decade, Bix’s new technology, “Own Your Unconscious”—which allows you access to every memory you’ve ever had, and to share your memories in exchange for access to the memories of others—has seduced multitudes.

In the world of Egan’s spectacular imagination, there are “counters” who track and exploit desires and there are “eluders,” those who understand the price of taking a bite of the Candy House. Egan introduces these characters in an astonishing array of narrative styles—from omniscient to first person plural to a duet of voices, an epistolary chapter, and a chapter of tweets. Intellectually dazzling, 
The Candy House is also a moving testament to the tenacity and transcendence of human longing for connection, family, privacy, and love.

“A beautiful exploration of loss, memory, and history” (
San Francisco Chronicle), “this is minimalist maximalism. It’s as if Egan compressed a big 19th-century novel onto a flash drive” (The New York Times).

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