Tina Jordan
February 07, 2014 AT 05:00 AM EST

Dept. of Speculation

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Jenny Offill
publisher
Knopf
genre
Fiction

We gave it an A-

Offill somehow manages to pack the sprawling story of an ordinary marriage, both the good bits and the bad — courtship, arguments, colicky baby, lice, affairs, bedbugs — into a small, poetic book. Rendered entirely in a series of staccato vignettes, Dept. of Speculation is told from the point of view of the bookish, funny wife. She quotes Dickinson, Kafka, and Yeats and likes to draw quirky historical comparisons — ancient tribal cultures, doomed Russian cosmonauts — with her domestic life as, over the years, her dreams and ambitions slowly erode. Lying down and exhausted by her screaming infant daughter, she describes a sleep-deprivation study about cats, then mutters, ”If I knew telekinesis, I would send this spoon over to feed that baby.” Yes, there’s joylessness here, but there’s also real joy. A-

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