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LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2020 'What are you afraid of, he asks me and the answer of course is dentistry, humiliation, scarcity, then he says what are your most useful skills? People think I'm funny' Lizzie Benson slid into her job as a librarian without a traditional degree. But this gives her a vantage point from which to practise her other calling: as an unofficial shrink. For years, she has supported her God-haunted mother and her recovering addict brother. They have both stabilized for the moment, but then her old mentor, Sylvia Liller, makes a proposal. Sylvia has become famous for her prescient podcast, Hell and High Water, and wants to hire Lizzie to answer the mail she receives: from left-wingers worried about climate change and right wingers worried about the decline of western civilization. As she dives into this polarized world, she begins to wonder what it means to keep tending your own garden once you've seen the flames beyond its walls. When her brother becomes a father and Sylvia a recluse, Lizzie is forced to acknowledge the limits of what she can do. But if she can't save others, then what, or who, might save her? And all the while the voices of the city keep floating in--funny, disturbing, and increasingly mad.
Lizzie Benson, a part-time librarian, is already overwhelmed with the crises of daily life when an old mentor offers her a job answering mail from the listeners of her apocalyptic podcast, Hell and High Water. Soon questions begin pouring in from left-wingers worried about climate change and right-wingers worried about the decline of Western civilization. Entering this polarized world, Lizzie is forced to consider who she is and what she can do to help: as a mother, as a wife, as a sister, and as a citizen of this doomed planet.
They used to send each other letters. The return address was always the same: Dept. of Speculation. They used to be young, brave, and giddy with hopes for their future. They got married, had a child, and skated through all the small calamities of family life. But then, slowly, quietly something changes. As the years rush by, fears creep in and doubts accumulate until finally their life as they know it cracks apart and they find themselves forced to reassess what they have lost, what is left, and what they want now. Written with the dazzling lucidity of poetry, Dept. of Speculation navigates the jagged edges of a modern marriage to tell a story that is darkly funny, surprising and wise.