Dept. of Speculation

by Jenny Offill
ISBN: 9780385350815

I kept thinking Offill’s name sounded familiar, then I realized it was because she wrote Sparky! which is an illustrated children’s book about a pet sloth.

Department of Speculation may be as far away from illustrated children’s stories about sloths as you can get.

It’s a slim novel, not a kid’s book. It’s about marriage, and whether or not one is falling apart or surviving, and what does that even mean? It held my attention through a flight from Boston to Charleston, a major feat as I am a highly anxious and fearful flier. (Seriously, I’d rather have another root canal than take a cross country flight.) A line like “The reason to have a home is to keep certain people in and everyone else out” resonates at 30,000 feet when you are headed away from, rather than toward home.

Offill is the kind of writer whose lines will grab you. It’s isn’t just about will she leave will he leave what will happen, it’s how much truth can you pack into one sentence? How much truth can you pack into a paragraph and still bear it?

If you need to focus your attention somewhere other than where you are, this fits the bill. If you are interested in the stories of a marriage that aren’t he said/she said, this also fits the bill. If you want to find writing that tells you things you know, but may have forgotten, I recommend it.

Evolution designed us to cry out if we are being abandoned. To make as much noise as possible so the tribe will come back for us.

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