Dept. of Speculation
By Jenny Offill
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780385350815, January 2014, 192pp.)
The Short of It:
Dept. of Speculation is a glittery, moving entity that grabs the reader quickly with its sharp and lovely prose.
The Rest of It:
This novel is quite different from anything I’ve read before. Reading it, was like gazing into a prism. It dazzled me with its simplicity and had me rereading passages every time I turned a page.
The story is told by the Narrator, who later becomes The Wife. She marries, has a child and then when the marriage begins to fall apart, she quietly observes the destruction almost as if she is a stranger on the outside, looking in. Infidelity plays a large role, as does the exhaustion that comes with raising a child. But in the midst of the not-so-good, is the good. The smell of her baby’s head, the way her husband used to look at her, the fact that they’ve come this far, even with all of the angst. There is something to be said for working through your problems, and that is what The Wife does, in her own head, as she carefully weighs what’s important to her.
Before getting married, we possess a sense of self. We know who we are and most often, what we hope to be. But once married, that plan or that sense of self often doesn’t pan out or changes into something else. That is the case here. With marriage, comes experience and life lessons and when we have children, we learn from that experience as well and it changes us. It would be impossible for it not to.
This book captures that moment of when Me, becomes We and then back again. Don’t let the book’s length fool you either. It’s short but packed with meaning. There’s plenty to reflect on here and although it certainly deals with the struggle that lots of married couples experience, it’s hopeful and tinged with the promise of something better.
Dept. of Speculation is a lovely read. I highly recommend it. Oh, and if you don’t read it, I may have to stop talking to you. I just threw that in to see who’s paying attention.
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