• Dept. of Speculation

  • By: Jenny Offill
  • Narrated by: Jenny Offill
  • Length: 3 hrs and 9 mins
  • 3.9 out of 5 stars (20 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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 this audiobook 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, 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 is a novel to be devoured in a single sitting, though its bracing emotional insights and piercing meditations on despair and love will linger long after the last word.

©2022 Jenny Offill (P)2022 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Absorbing and highly readable...Offill has successfully met the challenge she seems to have given herself: write only what needs to be written, and nothing more. No excess, no flab. And do it in a series of bulletins, fortune-cookie commentary, mordant observations, lyrical phrasing. And through these often disparate and disconnected means, tell the story of the fragile nature of anyone’s domestic life.... Intriguing, beautifully written, sly, and often profound.” (Meg Wolitzer, NPR)

“Audacious.... Hilarious...Dept. of Speculation reveals a raw marital reality that continues to be expunged from the pervasive narrative of marriage.... Offill moves quickly and poetically over deeply introspective questions about long-term partnerships, parenthood, and aging.... From deep within the interiors of a fictional marriage, Offill has crafted an account of matrimony and motherhood that breaks free of the all-too-limiting traditional stories of wives and mothers. There is a complexity to the central partnership; Offill folds cynicism into genuine moments of love. It may be difficult to truly know what happens between two people, but Offill gets alarmingly close.” (The Atlantic)

“Breathtaking.... Reminiscent of Renata Adler’s Speedboat but with a less bitter edge...Dept. of Speculation charts the course of a marriage through curious, often shimmering fragments of prose.... Moves quickly, but it is also joyously demanding because you will want to keep trying to understand the why of each fragment and how it fits with the others.... Offill is a smart writer with a canny sense of pacing.... She deftly moves the novel forward with elegant shifts of point of view.” (The New York Times Book Review)

What listeners say about Dept. of Speculation

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Fun facts!

Loved it! it had a journalistic feel to it that made it hard to stop listening to.

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Not really a story

This reminds me of Virginia Woolf in a way. The stream of thoughts of the nameless narrator, the switching of tones by the reader. I would recommend it to those who are willing to listen to almost pure thought.