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Review: "Dept of Speculation," by Jenny Offill

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Pick up this book and read it today. That’s all it will take, a couple hours. Her stylized, single on entries, mostly paragraph length, propel you through the mature life of the “wife” as she falls in love, marries, bears a child, suffers a possible break-up. There are asides as we see her insecurities and doubts as a person living, working and dealing with the world. She’s so human, so like us, that it brings a painful reminder of all our frailties and the difficulty of trying to deal with the world outside our own skins. Life is not easy despite what appears to be the semblance of normalcy and “middle class”ism. Each little entry is incisive and insightful, warming, heartrending or sad and terrifying. You can, at times, be confused a touch by the latest entry or two, uncertain of exactly what or where the main character “wife” is in time or place, but it truly doesn’t matter. I found the format challenging at times but rather amazing, as if the author honestly took me through the journey of the “wife’s” life without having to really write an entire novel. It was intriguing, engaging, intense, yet presented as if I had been delivered a packet of photographs of the characters which upon my viewing simply faded away. Or another way to put it, I got a glimpse into the lives of this family, but from a distance or around a corner or through a darkened window. It was brilliant, different, and caused me to think about the small and large moments of each day, each relationship and each action that make up a life.