Dept. of Speculation: Stunning novel that explores character with grace

Kathleen Duncan

Feb. 28, 2014 at 8:01 a.m.
Updated Feb. 27, 2014 at 8:28 p.m.

   Blaine Hefner for The Victoria Advocate

Jenny Offill's "Dept. of Speculation" is a thousand small moments of rage, beauty, grief and joy.

In its few pages, it captures the overpowering emotional resonance of everyday existence.

It explores the fluidity of relationships - whether they are between husband and wife or mother and child.

It illustrates how even the smallest of anxieties can become all-consuming, how the most trivial of defeats can vanquish us.

Offill writes about feelings and thoughts with such depth that she elevates average introspection into wisdom.

She reveals what we are at our core.

This story is told in a stream of consciousness. It ebbs and flows gently, pulling the reader along without ever becoming exhausting.

Every element of the main character's story compliments the next to create a beautifully insightful book.

The main character is a woman novelist.

She gets married.

She becomes a mother.

She fails to write a second book.

She takes a job as a ghost writer.

She is consumed with remorse at her own inability to create.

She fails.

She succeeds.

She settles.

She tries to get by.

She examines the world with wit and brevity.

She experiences her emotions with such clarity that it is almost terrifying.

She, like most of us, is muddled in her ability to understand herself and how she ended up where she did.

She is someone we can all relate to.

She is, in part, all of us.

"Dept. of Speculation" is a simple yet elegant little novel that is nothing short of stunning.

Unable to stop, I devoured this book within 24 hours. I couldn't help but admire each turn of phrase, the clever humor and the graceful construction of her being.

Truly, my only regret about this book is that like all good things, it had to end.



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