- The Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill
There's a lot there. And yet there's a lot not there. We, the readers, learn bits and pieces of many topics from history to philosophy with some astronomy thrown in. We don't go to deep into the specific couple, heck, we don't give them names, but we see the decisions they make in order to preserve or change their circumstances, especially in the area of marital fidelity.
I enjoyed it. I wanted to enjoy it more. I wasn't sure if I wanted to root for ANY outcome, which can make a reader less invested in the journey. I enjoyed the little data bits and how they connected up (esp one focused on child age and paternal infidelity). 3.5 or 4 stars. It might actually improve with a second read...you spend some parts trying to catch up with what it happening and the knowledge could allow you to enjoy the ride more.
An Advance copy was provided by Knopf but all opinions are my own.
- What I Had Before I Had You by Sarah Cornwell
Young Olivia knows her mom is different. She tells fortunes, reads palms, and speaks to her "twins." Olivia has been told her would-be-older-sisters died in infancy. There is a lot of turmoil in the home that is hard to grasp until it becomes clear that mom is severely bipolar and there are early signs in Olivia as well. This is a summer of rebellion and pulling away as Olivia also tries to figure out who she is, and who she could be apart from her mom.
In the latter year sections (woven throughout), Olivia's marriage is fading. Her daughter Chloe appears to be fading a bit too as nine year ol Daniel is showing signs of a very significant, early onset, bipolar disorder. When the trio stops for a breather, Daniel goes missing. Present day Carrie retraces some of the important places of her youth and revisits an old friend as she, along with police, search for the boy.
Don't just call this a novel about bipolarism. It is that, and notable for looking at three different manifestations of a broadly applied label, but it is also about family, both those of blood and those of other bonds.
I read this Harper early release in exchange for my unbiased review. It was a good book and I enjoyed most of it, but I'm not sure that it is going to be one I seek out to read again and I would likely struggle to describe the novel six months from now if only given the book's title. 3.5 stars, rounding down b/c it just didn't resonate with me. Could be good for the right book club or an airplane ride, but can't picture shoving it into someone's hands as a must read.