Sweeter than Candy: A Review of “The Candy House” by Jennifer Egan

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With its iridescent rainbow cover contrasted with stark-white size fifty aerial font, “The Candy House” was not a book I felt proud to be reading amidst the literary geniuses holed up alongside me in the library. But alas, it also wasn’t a book I could put down.  

The series was introduced to me by my suitemate and has since consumed most of my time as opposed to my, arguably more pressing though far less interesting, homework. I want to make it clear that this review will not be a plot summary or a summary of sort, but rather a review of the thoughts and emotions one might expect when turning the pages of the number one book of 2022 according to the New York Times (and to me). 

Like its predecessor “A Visit from The Goon Squad,” each chapter in “The Candy House” is told by a different character as well as in a different format. One chapter entitled “Lulu the Spy, 2032” is written as a series of thought entries while another, “See Below,” is composed entirely of email threads. Such varied formatting forces the reader to find the story between the lines – to identify the unwritten plot and fill in the blanks, not with their own imagination but instead from subtle information planted in previous or sometimes even later chapters. At times reading felt like taking a quiz where you stare at a question struggling to come up with the correct solution, the answer stubbornly taking up residence on the tip of your tongue. It was infuriating until, at last, the answer came to me, at which point even Sherlock Holmes paled in the shadow of my genius. The book forced an active recall that is very rarely required when reading for pleasure, but challenged me in a way that kept me intrigued even in some of the more duller moments of the book. 

The novel also plays with time, treating it as a fluid substance as opposed to a linear line. The same way each chapter is told from a different point of view, they also all function as snapshots in time –the past, the future, and the present so intertwined that they cease to exist at all. Yet somehow, all the chapters seem to connect even if distantly. One chapter may be written by X while two chapters later the narrator is the daughter of X’s tennis partner. The lines between the individual characters are thin and fragile, like parts of a web – each section distinct yet somehow, when zoomed out, weaves together a larger picture.

Due to its emphasis on the multiple storylines that occur, the book reads less like fiction and more like a detailed recording of life with each individual allowed to be the main character of their own story even if only a side character, “distant relative,” or “famous antiquated music producer” in someone else’s. 

There is no possible way to spoil a book like this because it doesn’t have a singular plot. It doesn’t have a real beginning or end as each chapter functions as its own microcosm of reality. The book acts almost as a collective consciousness –to those of you who haven’t read the book, that won’t mean much, but to those of you who have, I hope you appreciate my not so subtle nod to Bix’s creation. Want that last sentence to make sense? Read the book.

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