Dept. of Speculation

Dept. of Speculation

eBook - 2014
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"Dept. of Speculation is a portrait of a marriage. It is also a beguiling rumination on the mysteries of intimacy, trust, faith, knowledge, and the condition of universal shipwreck that unites us all. Jenny Offill's heroine, referred to in these pages as simply "the wife," once exchanged love letters with her husband, postmarked Dept. of Speculation, their code name for all the uncertainty that inheres 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--the wife analyzes her predicament, invoking everything from Keats and Kafka to the thought experiments of the Stoics to the lessons of doomed Russian cosmonauts. She muses on the consuming, capacious experience of maternal love, and the near total destruction of the self that ensues from it, as she confronts the friction between domestic life and the seductions and demands of art. With cool precision, in language that shimmers with rage and wit and fierce longing, Jenny Offill has crafted an exquisitely suspenseful love story that has the velocity of a train hurtling through the night at top speed. Exceptionally lean and compact, Dept. of Speculation can be read in a single sitting, but there are enough bracing emotional insights in these pages to fill a much longer novel. "--
Publisher: New York : Knopf, 2014
ISBN: 9780385351027
Branch Call Number: EBOOK OVERDRIVE
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Alternative Title: Department of speculation

Related Resources


Featured Blogs and Events

Bus Reads: April Favorites

First off, I moved to Tacoma. I gotta say I never thought I’d move from Seattle, but life happens and between rent increases and a boy I made the plunge to the sassy sister to the south! One of the many highlights of my move has actually been my bus commute. That’s not something you hear every day, but the 90 minutes now has become my quiet time to devour books and devour them I have. (more)

From Library Staff

Nominated by Seattle Public Library USA; Chicago Public Library, USA; Waterford City and County Libraries (Ireland)

An unflinching portrait of marriage by the award-winning author of Last Things features a heroine simply referred to as "the Wife," who transitions from an idealistic woman who once exchanged love letters with her husband and who confronts an array of universal difficulties. (NoveList)

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Feb 12, 2021

Loved this book. She really knows how to describe a marriage and all the joys and miseries that go along with it. Spot on.

Aug 27, 2020

A wry and touching story about a marriage and a family in dissolution. I *think* the marriage survives in the end, not sure. But perhaps that's the point. I do like Jenny Offill's style. Part of it are deeply evocative; others make me laugh out loud. And I constantly wanted to read it aloud to my spouse.

Aug 16, 2020

A familiar and predictable story, but told in such an original and amusing way it becomes refreshed and personal. The narrator's tone takes us into her unique world-view. If Roz Chast were to write a novel, it would sound like this.

Jan 02, 2020

I really liked this unique small novel about a woman's marriage and motherhood. Absolutely beautiful and intelligent writing. It takes a bit of time to enter the flow and style of Offill's work, but once you do, it is hard to put down. I am off to find her earlier book, and hope Ms. Offill writes more soon!

CRRL_MegRaymond Feb 26, 2018

While dating, a couple sent each other letters postmarked "the Dept. of Speculation". After their marriage, with a normal complement of ups and downs, "the wife" ponders her marriage and whether it will survive.

May 28, 2017

Really interesting format; honest and bold writing. Be patient, it took until half way through to connect.

May 21, 2017

The style it is written takes a little getting use to but also made it more of a quick read which is good because it is really a summary of ones life and the missed oppertunities or paths taken for whatever reasons and some philosphoies that go with that.
I found some of the sayings or connections interesting and I could resonate, we all have our thoughts and our life stories. Not sure this is memorable but a change from the usual style a book is written. Still found it a good little read for the genre that is it, I wasn't expecting any twists or suspense or anything, more a book you can just relate to in general and ponder your life and reasonings.

DBRL_IdaF Jan 09, 2017

Everyone's story is interesting from the inside, if told correctly, even if it's the same old story. Woman decides to live the life of an art monster, eschewing domestic responsibilities. Woman falls in love, gets married, has child. Opts for steady paycheck. For a while there are bedbugs. Then lice. Has The Most Wonderful Husband, until he dallies with someone else. Woman questions everything. Kind of sort of thinks again about becoming art monster.

Intriguing to me is the shifting narration. When things are wonderful, it's first person. When things are at their most painful for the wife, it's third person, a distancing. During the very worst times, the narrator even critiques the narrative, as if it's a story written by one of her students. Interspersed in the narrative are quotes from philosophers and artists.

ArapahoeAndrew Aug 02, 2016

Quick, well-written, scattered take on modern marriage. Not a downer or an upper, but really enjoyed the incoherent (at times) narration as it reflected the uncertainty faced by the protagonist.

Jun 26, 2016

This story of a marriage of nameless people is told in fragmentary paragraphs. It is very slight and all technique.

View All Comments


Add a Summary
Jul 30, 2015

Stream of consciousness story that is well written and a quick read. A mother and wife contemplates her life and current situation.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at SPL

To Top