Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Dept. of Speculation
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dept. of Speculation is the August selection for the SBC online book club. To learn more about SBC or to join the conversation, visit the SBC page here at Imperfect Happiness or join our Goodreads Group.

The first half of this book is just delightful, with the anxiety and the angst and with the story told in little snippets. I relate to both the content and the scattered form. It’s like a pleasant reminiscence about early parenthood, and boy, isn’t it nice to be through those days? as the author and I sip from our respective glasses of wine.

And then comes the second half like a punch in the gut. Still a powerful way to tell a story, but it’s too real to be called “delightful.” It’s like one of my own nightmares put in book form.

Reading the second half reminded me of when I squirmed my way through the movie Before Midnight in which Julie Delpy argues with an awkwardly aging Ethan Hawke for two hours in a way that’s a little too familiar to me.

For the first time since I was in junior high, I’m reading contemporary books written for my age group—finally the GenX authors seem to be taking the place of the Boomers, perhaps because we’re finally entering midlife (or what used to be midlife since “midlife” is now supposed to be 60 or something as the Millennials and the Boomers conspire to squeeze us out of everything)—and although I’ve been eagerly anticipating this day, now I’m not sure that I want to read about the anxieties of those traversing with me the handful of years before and after 40. It’s too close. It gives me palpitations.

One of my favorite quotes from the book:

“But now it seems possible that the truth about getting older is that there are fewer and fewer things to make fun of until finally there is nothing you are sure you will never be.” (p 114)

Incidentally, this book would have been interesting told in little blog posts. I’m glad it’s a novel, but it would have worked as a serial blog, too.

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