The Candy House
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES TOP TEN BOOKS OF 2022
ONE OF THE ECONOMIST TOP SIX BOOKS OF 2022
ONE OF ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY’S TOP TEN BOOKS OF 2022
ONE OF SLATE’S TOP TEN BOOKS OF 2022
ONE OF THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER TOP TEN BOOKS OF 2022
Also named one of the BEST BOOKS OF 2022 by Vanity Fair, Time, NPR, The Guardian, Oprah Daily, LitHub, Self, Book Riot, Vogue, Bookpage, The New Yorker, BBC, Vulture, and many more!
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).
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
With these sci-fi stories about tech culture and humanity, novelist Jennifer Egan proves she’s always full of surprises. At the dawn of the 2010s, tech superstar Bix Bouton discovers the groundbreaking human-behavior research of anthropologist Miranda Klein, which he co-opts to start a disruptive new company. By 2020, not everyone wants to share the contents of their brains in Bix’s worldwide database, but the genie’s out of the bottle. That begins a fascinating roundelay of interconnected stories about everyday lives in a tech-dominated culture. We loved Alfred, who tries to enroll his dachshund in pre-K classes; cheered on 13-year-old Molly, socially banished by her mean-girl ex-BFF; and were held rapt by Lulu’s real-time account of an espionage assignment gone horribly wrong. A sort-of sequel to Egan’s breakthrough bestseller, A Visit from the Goon Squad, these near-future vignettes feel so real and timely that halfway through, we were already looking forward to reading The Candy House a second time.
Egan returns to the fertile territory and characters of A Visit from the Goon Squad with an electrifying and shape-shifting story that one-ups its Pulitzer-winning predecessor. I'll see your PowerPoint chapter, Egan seems to say, and raise you a chapter in tweets, and another in emails and texts. In the near future, a platform called Own Your Unconscious allows memories to be uploaded to the cloud and accessed by anyone. "Counters" seek to ferret out "proxies" that help hide "eluders" who resist merging their "gray grabs" to the collective in order to leave their online personae behind. Not everyone sees this as panacea, and a countermovement called Mondrian arises. Appearances from music producer Bennie Salazar, his mentor Lou Kline, and their lovers and children provide sharp pleasures for Goon Squad fans, and Egan cleverly echoes the ambitious, savvy marketing schemes of real-world tech barons with Own Your Unconscious. It casts its spell on Bennie, whose punk rock days with the Flaming Dildos are long past: "Tongue-in-cheek nostalgia is merely the portal, the candy house, if you will, through which we hope to lure in a new generation and bewitch them," he writes in an email. Twisting through myriad points of view, narrative styles, and divergent voices, Egan proves herself as perceptive an interpreter of the necessity of human connection as ever, and her vision is as irresistible as the tech she describes. This is Egan's best yet. Agent: Binky Urban, ICM Partners.
Enjoy the Ride
To be fair, I'm a fan of Jennifer Egan's writing. That said, The Candy House may confuse many because there are many characters. Each chapter is a short story with alternating timelines and overlapping characters. Touted as a follow up to Welcome to the Goon Squad, you don't necessarily have to read that book to appreciate this one. What was so striking to me -beyond the commentary of social media and allowing technology to invade our thoughts - was Egan's ability to write about everyday people and the absurd, frightening future she envisions. A work of genius that will not be for everyone. Strap yourself in. Enjoy the ride.
If you loved Goon Squad you will not be disappointed. This book consumed me for a week. I wanted to do nothing else. I need to go back and read both books in order now. I’m blown away.
Trying very hard to be clever FAIL
3/4 in and still waiting for any character and/or plot development. At least one full chapter is unreadable and, frankly, exhausted my patience to the point of annoyance.
Maybe the final 150 pages will redeem it but I’m not optimistic.
I was right.