Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill, is a weird and wonderful book. At under 200 pages (my e-galley was closer to 100), it's definitely a speedy, involving read.
The real kicker here is the writing. This story is told in short bursts of text. Like wee tiny vignettes...some changing topics from paragraph to paragraph. There are also plenty of quotes and allusions that help paint a portrait of the narrator's happiness and frustration, rage and resilience.
Modified from Goodreads: The nameless wife and narrator of this novella once exchanged love letters with her husband, postmarked Dept. of Speculation, their code name for all the uncertainty inherent in life and in the strangely fluid confines of a long relationship. As they confront an array of common catastrophes—a colicky baby, bedbugs, a faltering marriage, stalled ambitions, she muses on the consuming experience of maternal love, and the near total destruction of the self that ensues from it, as well as the friction between domestic life and the seductions and demands of art.
And it's true! All that stuff is in there. It sounds far more highfalutin' than it really comes across in the novella, though. What Offill accomplishes with the short vignettes and bits of thought and emotion is a really visceral reading experience. It took me a while to get into this style. You really have to sit back and just take it in for a bit before it really starts to congeal and make sense. For some, this will be a huge deterrent, but I found it unputdownable.
If you need a quick, quality read to get your mojo going, this might be the one!
Pub. Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday
Format: Hardcover, E-book
Source: A rare e-book galley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.