What started out as a really sweet family study turned into a pretty painful read. Offill has been there ("there" being the depths of marital disaster) — that's clear — and has captured this slice of domestic drama with something that I can only describe as an aching tenderness. Small and slight vignettes are layered again and again to make up this gorgeous little novel. Beautifully done. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Dept. of Speculation is a gorgeous little novel that sometimes feels more like poetry than prose — a slice of life about the devastations of artistry, marriage, and concepts. Jenny Offill imbues her sentences with a dazzling humanity that will make you feel all the things across the spectrum. Recommended By Cosima C., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
From the acclaimed author of Last Things comes a slim, stunning portrait of a marriage — a beguiling rumination on the mysteries of intimacy, trust, faith, knowledge, and the condition of universal shipwreck that unites us all.
ONE OF THE 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR - THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
A Best Book of the Year: The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Vogue.com, Electric Literature, Buzzfeed
In the beginning, it was easy to imagine their future. They were young and giddy, sure of themselves and of their love for each other. "Dept. of Speculation" was their code name for all the thrilling uncertainties that lay ahead. Then they got married, had a child and navigated the familiar calamities of family life — a colicky baby, a faltering relationship, stalled ambitions.
When their marriage reaches a sudden breaking point, the wife tries to retrace the steps that have led them to this place, invoking everything from Kafka to the Stoics to doomed Russian cosmonauts as she analyzes what is lost and what remains. In language that shimmers with rage and longing and wit, Offill has created a brilliantly suspenseful love story — a novel to read in one sitting, even as its piercing meditations linger long after the last page.
"[A] mini marvel of a novel. . . . Unfolds in tart, tiny chapters suffused with pithy philosophical musings, scientific tidbits, and poetic sayings that collectively guide a brainy, beleaguered couple through the tricky emotional terrain of their once wondrous, now wobbly union." Elle
"Whip-smart, defying description, will bring your walls down around you." Flavorwire
"Slender, quietly smashing. . . . A book so radiant, so sparkling with sunlight and sorrow, that it almost makes a person gasp." The Boston Globe
"Audacious . . . Hilarious . . . . An account of matrimony and motherhood that breaks free of the all-too-limiting traditional stories of wives and mothers. . . . It may be difficult to truly know what happens between two people, but Offill gets alarmingly close." The Atlantic
About the Author
Jenny Offill is the author of the novel Last Things, which was chosen as a Notable Book of the Year by The New York Times and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times First Book Award. She teaches in the writing programs at Queens University, Brooklyn College, and Columbia University.