Dept of SpeculationTuesday, February 24, 2015
Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill is a brief novel soaked with vignettes of real life details, oddities, and observations used to display how fragile domestic life is – as if everything balances on a delicate thread and one fray will send the world spinning. The main characters, simply referred to as “the husband” and “the wife”, lease a home in Brooklyn and begin their new life complete with its emotional side effects and quirks. We see the inner struggles of the wife as she battles depression and a lack of self esteem. We see emotional spirals that everyone is familiar with, though many may dampen that voice. Offill's style is something I can definitely appreciate: she says what needs to be said, nothing more. No flowers, no frills.
I have to say, the most interesting part of this book is it's form: there is no plot, just a collection of little details and thoughts from the wife's perspective. She shares her feelings, her insecurities, and even her love/hate relationship with yoga which no doubt represents her emotional instability. Though this perspective offers few “full” details, part of the fun is that my mind would take the raw material and fill in the blanks. I began to create my own scenarios for the novel as I continued. However, this same tone can also leave you in bewilderment and at times I was confused as to which scenario was currently occurring or who was speaking to the wife.
Surprisingly, there were quite a few funny moments! In particular, Offill referred to the Internet meme I CAN HAZ CHEEZEBURGER, to which the wife later refers to in a moment of cheek and confidence when approached by flirtatious men by thinking I CAN HAS BOYFRIEND?
Overall, the tone of the novel is rather melancholy – the wife battles depression, sees various therapists, suffers a miscarriage, and absorbs the husband's infidelity. Though the infidelity begins to push the wife over the edge, she slowly returns to daily life and begins a new chapter with the husband. I would not say this is a story of forgiveness, more acceptance of life's cards. Nonetheless, it is a very refreshing view of inner turmoil.