Jennifer Egan

American Novelist

Originally from Chicago, Egan attended the University of Pennsylvania and got her masters from St. johns college, Cambridge. Egan moved to new york around the middle 80s to pursue a career in writing, however, her big break came with her first enduring a series of bad, subpar jobs. This article carries a standard biography of acclaimed American writer, Jennifer Egan.

Life Facts

  • Jennifer Egan was born in Chicago, Illinois, into a catholic home, to Donald, her father and a corporate lawyer at the time; and Kimpton, or Kay, her mother, a well-schooled art dealer and an investment banker.
  • Her parents divorced when Egan was two years old.
  • At seven years old, young Egan moved to San Francisco, California, with her family, and spent most of her childhood there.
  • Donald her father was an alcoholic. However, his divorce from his wife Kay happened because he wanted a more traditional, stay-at-home and cook-me-dinner-type housewife, but she was quite the opposite so she asked for a divorce.
  • After failing to fit in well in both middle and high school, Egan wasn’t sure about furthering her education. However, she later did and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania for her first degree, and later, St. John’s College, Cambridge, UK, where she got her master’s degree.

Interesting Facts

  • While an undergrad student in Pennsylvania, a young and outgoing Egan met and met young Steve Jobs for about a year. The Apple Ceo would help her install a Mac computer in her dormitory apartment.
  • Egan isn’t only an award-winning novelist – with a Pulitzer Prize as one of her many book awards, but she is also a well-decorated journalist, who has published award-winning articles with top publishers like The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, and Harper’s Magazine among others.
  • Because of her tall, skinny frame and all-around model-type body, Egan tried out modeling several times, but it just wouldn’t work for her.
  • She is married to David Herskovits, a theatre director, and both have two sons and live in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.
  • Coming of age under her mother’s watch allowed her a lot of freedom from whence she developed an outgoing culture early on. She partied, went to clubs, and got high with her friends. However, she eventually learned to be more disciplined and decent as sad he grew older.

Famous Books by Jennifer Egan

Jennifer Egan’s oeuvre contains only about seven books in total; however, most of these books are highly acclaimed in their own right and belong on the top shelf. The author’s maiden novel is a 1994 book titled ‘The Invincible Circus,’ followed by ‘Look at Me,’ published seven years later and was a finalist for the National Book Award.

In 2006, Egan released a gothic horror, ‘The Keep,’ which immediately became a national bestseller in the United States, and four years later, she published her most acclaimed work and trademark book, ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ – a book which then won the highly coveted Pulitzer Prize the following year.

Egan’s fifth and sixth books came in 2016 and 2017 in ‘Why China’ and ‘Manhattan Beach’ respectively, and her seventh and final book was published in 2022 titled, ‘The Candy House’ – which is a sequel to ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad.’

Egan’s body of work is impressive and well-remarked by critics. Her writing style is unique and unconventional and follows the ideology of a postmodernist writer. Reasons are questioned in her books, her books are seldom meeting the expected end for readers, and she typically writes without a prearranged outline like most writers do. Here’s a brief highlight of some of her most famous works.

A Visit from the Goon Squad’ is a gripping – yet not the easiest – book to read. With thirteen standalone chapters – each flooded by unique, different characters, the book is stuck between being a collection of short stories and a single novel. In the book, Egan explores the rock music industry headlined by record producer Bennie Salazar and his employee, Sasha, a certain troubled young woman in her mid-thirties. Through a spellbinding interplay of time and survival instinct, Egan zooms into the history of these characters – connecting them with a host of other interesting characters as they cross paths in what spiral into a topsy-turvy yet fascinating narrative.

The Invincible Circus’ is Egan’s debut book set in the 1970s and follows Phoebe’s investigation into the mysterious life and death of her sister Faith O’Connor in Italy. In what plunges the readership into an emotional rollercoaster, 18-year-old Phoebe trails Faith’s life from the Bay Area through Europe in search of answers.

Manhattan Beach’ is an award-winning book detailing Jennifer Egan’s impressive attempt at historical novel writing, and portrays the story of young Anna Kerrigan who’s taken by her father Eddie into the rich Manhattan Beach neighborhood to work for a gangster called Dexter, a move which will later unravel a chain of events – including the disappearance of Eddie among other things.

The Keep’ is Egan’s national bestseller which takes a more horror turn. The book follows a familial affair involving two cousins whose lives were impacted by an unfortunate event some twenty years ago. ‘The Keep’ narrates the talent of fear and uncertainty, an abandoned castle, crime, and incarceration.

Early Life and Education

Born in 1962 in Chicago to her attorney father Donald and her mother Kay, an art collector, Egan later moved with her mother to San Francisco to live together with her stepfather from around the age of four after her parents divorced. She spent most of her childhood experiencing the Bay Area culture – particularly the 70s pop culture of the Haight-Ashbury area (an event that would later be a sort of inspiration for her writing career).
Egan is of Irish descent thanks to her biological father, Donald, who also raised her in the Catholic faith (although Egan prefers to be identified as an agnostic these days). Egan’s parents’ divorce was particularly devastating on her childhood, and one of the clear consequences she recounted was the sort of instability it brought to her life, as she constantly had to be on the move and in between foster homes – all of which made her life difficult than it should.
Egan attended Lowell High School and by 1985 she enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania where she pursued a degree in English literature. There she would also meet David Herskovits, her future husband. After Pennsylvania, Egan pursued a master’s in St John’s College, Cambridge, England, and took the liberty to tour Europe – another experience that would prove vital in her later novel writing work.

Literary Career and Accomplishments

After her education, Egan kicked off a career in mainstream journalism, covering an array of Investigative reporting for her news outlet. She mostly reports on mental health and other health-related topics, child destitution, and drug abuse and addiction.
The author gained quite a reputation doing her journalistic work – even getting herself a number of prestigious awards for it. In 1995, she released her maiden novel titled, ‘The Invisible Circus,’ and two years later she dropped ‘Emerald City’ – with both books inspired by her personal experiences and travel stories.
‘Look at Me’ followed in 2001 and by 2006 Egan rolled out ‘The Keep.’ In 2010, her greatest work yet was released in ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ – a book themed around time, youth, missed opportunities, and punk music. The book received several prestigious literature awards including the Pulitzer Prize.
After Goon Squad, Egan didn’t show any signs of slowing down and continued to drop books of worthy acclaim – from ‘Manhattan Beach’ to ‘Why China?’ to ‘The Candy House’ – a 2022 sequel to her trademark novel ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad.’

Literature by Jennifer Egan

Explore literature by Jennifer Egan below, created by the team at Book Analysis.