Dept. of speculation / Jenny Offill.
Booklist Reviews 2014 January #1
This is a magnetic novel about a marriage of giddy bliss and stratospheric anxiety, bedrock alliance and wrenching tectonic shifts. Offill, author of the novel Last Things (1999) and various children's books, covers this shifting terrain and its stormy weather in an exquisitely fine-tuned, journal-like account narrated by "the wife," an ironic self-designation rooted in her growing fears about her marital state. She is smart if a bit drifty, imaginative and selectively observant, and so precisely articulate that her perfect, simple sentences vibrate like violin strings. And she is mordantly funny, a wry taxonomist of emotions and relationships. Her dispatches from the fog of new motherhood are hilarious and subversive. Her cynical pursuit of self-improvement is painfully accurate. Her Richter-scale analysis of the aftershocks of infidelity is gripping. Nothing depicted in this portrait of a family in quiet disarray is unfamiliar in life or in literature, and that is the artistic magic of Offill's stunning performance. She has sliced life thin enough for a microscope slide and magnified it until it fills the mind's eye and the heart. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2013 November #1
The book's title refers to the return address used by both husband and wife on letters they wrote to each other while dating. This slim novel continually speculates on the marriage of our unnamed protagonist, through all its vagaries, including the husband's affair with a much younger woman. Everyday events are always related from the wife's point of view. She is a writing instructor at a college in New York City and is also helping to write a book for a "would-be astronaut" about space travel. As the woman moves through the phases of her eagerly anticipated marriage to an Ohio-born musician, from its beginning through motherhood and more, the reader easily empathizes with her struggles and frustrations. The narrative changes direction near the end, when our heroine attempts to keep her soul together along with her marriage and family. VERDICT This work reads very quickly, and a second read is recommended. Offill's lean prose and the addition of astute quotations prevent the text from becoming just one more story of an infidelity. The author's debut, Last Things, was a Los Angeles Times First Book Award finalist, noted by the New York Times; here, her writing is exquisitely honed and vibrant. This would be an enlightened choice for a reading group. [See Prepub Alert, 7/8/13.]—Lisa Rohrbaugh, Leetonia Community P.L., OH[Page 81]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
PW Reviews 2013 November #4
Popping prose and touching vignettes of marriage and motherhood fill Offill's (Last Things) slim second book of fiction. Clever, subtle, and rife with strokes of beauty, this book is both readable in a single sitting and far ranging in the emotions it raises. The 46 short chapters are told mostly in brief fragments and fly through the life of the nameless heroine. Her mind wanders from everyday tasks and struggles, the beginnings of her marriage, the highs and lows with her husband, the joys of having a daughter. These domestic bits are contrasted by far-flung thoughts that whirl in every direction, from space aviation and sea exploration to ancient philosophy and Lynyrd Skynyrd lyrics. Anecdotes and quotes also come from all over: Einstein, Eliot, Keats, Rilke, Wittgenstein, Darwin, and Carl Sagan. Often, the use of third person places the heroine at a distance, examining the macro-reality of her life, but then Offill will zoom in, giving the reader a view into her heroine's inner life—notes, graded papers and corrected manuscripts, monologues, imagined Christmas cards and questionnaires. Offill has equal parts cleverness and erudition, but it's her language and eye for detail that make this a must-read: "Just after she turns five my daughter starts making confessions to me. It seems she is noticing her thoughts as thoughts for the first time and wants absolution.... I thought of stepping on her foot, but I didn't. I tried to make her a little bit jealous. I pretended to be mad at him. ‘Everybody has bad thoughts,' I tell her. ‘Just try not to act on them.' " (Jan.)[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC