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When One of Your Favorite Authors Tries Something New

Ashley Gilliam is the Online Marketing Manager for Scribner. Previously Ashley was Scribner's Publishing Manager, and before that she was an editorial assistant at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Ashley is a graduate of Roanoke College and Emerson College. For Scribner, Ashley manages social media campaigns and online content, as well as edits The Best American PoetryThe Collected Works of W.B. Yeats, movie tie-in editions, and other titles.

Like many readers, I first encountered Jennifer Egan by reading A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD. I quickly filed this author under: innovative, brilliant, one to follow. I mean, she made Pulitzer Prize-winning literature out of a PowerPoint presentation in one of the GOON SQUAD’s interrelated stories. She writes about music and technology in a way that is in-the-know, but not too in-the-know. You know? I immediately joined the chorus singing her authorial praises.

GOON SQUAD is effortlessly cool, taking you from punk clubs to celebrity interviews gone wrong to safari trips in Kenya, shifting back and forth in time, enmeshing you in the world of a whole cast of characters without ever losing you for one second. Egan’s writing is impressive, addictive.

So when her next book—a novel this time, set solely in the past—came up, I was a little thrown.

MANHATTAN BEACH is capital-H Historical fiction. Set in 1940s New York, it has a noir feel to it and places you in the midst of World War II. The fierce protagonist, Anna Kerrigan, wants to become the first female diver while working on ships at the Brooklyn Naval Yard. Anna also brushes against New York City’s darker sides while investigating her father’s disappearance.

While reading, you follow Anna to the navy yard, classes at Brooklyn College, Manhattan nightclubs, and you see her at home with her mother and her sister, who needs constant care. Anna moves through these worlds like a chameleon, and it is a pleasure to watch her. Dexter Styles, an associate of Anna’s missing father and a crime boss who has married his way into New York society, is a chameleon too, of a darker sort, but equally fascinating. When Anna’s and Dexter’s paths cross, in true noir fashion, it is deliciously dramatic.

But was the Jennifer Egan I loved from GOON SQUAD still there in MANHATTAN BEACH?

The answer, thank goodness, was yes. She may have traded aging rock stars in for gangsters, but Egan is still effortlessly cool here. In-the-know but not too in-the-know. Never losing you for a second. Whether she’s riffing on modern-day record execs and digital natives, or classic femme fatales and antiheroes, I now know to unhesitatingly follow Egan wherever she goes. Next up on the TBR list: THE INVISIBLE CIRCUS, LOOK AT ME, and THE KEEP—I have some catching up to do.


Manhattan Beach
Jennifer Egan

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A Visit from the Goon Squad
Jennifer Egan

Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals the pasts of two music industry veterans in this Pulitzer Prize–winning novel. With music pulsing on every page, this masterpiece is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.

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Enter for a Chance to Win MANHATTAN BEACH and 14 More Vacation Reads to Kick Off Your Summer!

MANHATTAN BEACH is one of five books in the running for One Book, One New York! Vote now.

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