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Last Things

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  953 ratings  ·  120 reviews
Grace's father believes in science and builds his daughter a dollhouse with lights that really work. Grace's mother takes her skinny-dipping in the lake and teaches her about African hyena men who devour their wives in their sleep. Grace's world, of fact and fiction, marvels and madness, is slowly unraveling because her family is coming apart before her eyes. Now ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published April 11th 2000 by Delta (first published 1999)
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Average rating 3.53  · 
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 ·  953 ratings  ·  120 reviews

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Michael Livingston
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful book, told from the perspective of a quirky 8 year old girl as her parents marriage buckles and collapses under the pressure of her mother's mental illness. It's a bit of a trope at this point, but Offill uses the child's perspective brilliantly to provide a slightly warped view of proceedings. It's funny and desperately sad and filled with odd moments. Offill is a brilliant writer and it was a joy to dig back into her early work.
Emily Simpson
Apr 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read this after immensely enjoying Department of Speculation. Grace's mother beams the psychoanalytic id in so many of its most joyous and destructive iterations. Jenny Offill's setting of poles between mother/father, concrete/ethereality, structure/boundlessness is deeply satisfying. For one reason or another, I was left thinking of scenes from Terrence Malick's Tree of Life.

A beautiful and worthwhile book.
Sep 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: favorites
This book has something about it. I could hear the sound of silence properly reading it. I mean, I could hear the sound of my childhood calmness while reading this book. Every time I opened it again I went back to my childhood, not differentiating between what's in my head and reality.. I shouldn't have taken too long reading it though.. The story is okay, but the style of writing and the magic of the characters is too good. This is one of the most poetic books I've read so far.
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Inventive & darkly funny tale of a childhood spent in the presence of a brilliant mother going brilliantly mad.
Gumble's Yard
Jan 31, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
I hope to join an upcoming Book Club discussion of Jenny Offill’s 2014 second novel “Dept of Speculation” (shortlisted for the Folio Prize); and her third novel “Weather” appeared on a number of 2020-preview lists and so made it onto the list of a number of books I pre-ordered from the library (and, where available, requested ARCs) in early January after I had entirely cleared my TBR pile over the New Year.

In preparation for reading both Offill books in early February, I thought I would finish
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: september-2018
I very much enjoyed Jenny Offill's second novel,Dept. of Speculation, and happily hunted down her debut,Last Things, which was published in 1999. TheIrish Timescalls the novel a 'glorious debut', andThe Timeswrites that 'Offill creates for Grace a mesmerising imaginary world... She writes with a heartbreaking clarity... and is dextrously able to evoke emotional extremity through pitch-perfect narrative compression.'

The protagonist and narrator of Last Thingsis Grace Davitt, who is seven years
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dept of Speculation was one of my favorite books the year I read it. And this book is also very good. I will definitely read any books she publishes in the future. This one has a young female narrator, mother-daughter relationship, interesting facts, which are all things I like in books.
Jan 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: suicide, death
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lacey Louwagie
Jul 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
This is a haunting story of a woman's descent into madness, told through the eyes of her eight-year-old daughter. It's painful to watch the way she pulls away from her husband, who seems to be a good, loving man, and who is her best link to reality--taking her daughter with her. Still, it's easy to see how he originally became captivated by her imagination, spirit, whims, conviction, and even volatility, as she weaves a similar spell around her daughter, the reader, and even the teenage ...more
Jul 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a delicate novel, wisping along on the surface of the refreshingly unprecocious child narrator's mind. Normally I can't stand child narrators, the way adults write them as if they're writing from an alien point of view, tacking their life experiences and grown-up quirks onto them in a way that leaves us with irritatingly bright adult-children, but Jenny Offill gets it right. She doesn't play Grace as overly perceptive, but at the same time, Grace isn't incognizant of the adult things ...more
Rashmi Tiwari
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
This is one of those books that is a combination of truly beautiful, lyrical writing and a really blah story. It's a bold choice to tell a story entirely from the POV of an 8-year old. While Offill pulls it off to some extent, her Grace is almost transparent when compared to her parents (which seems to be the point) but it makes the narrative drag on listlessly heading nowhere. This is confusing because Grace is also one of those overly precocious, cynical children in literature that can't ...more
Apr 10, 2007 rated it it was ok
Sort of coming-of-age story, but of who? the child or the parents? Since the narrator is eight, and tells things very openly, guilelessly (as kids can do) – even terrible things like locking a blind girl in a doghouse as a trick – there is a sense of having to question everything you’re told. The father teaches his daughter pure fact; the mother teaches her things like how there is a Loch Ness type monster in the lake near their house or that Grace’s fascination with everything in a book called ...more
Apr 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Last things doesn't possess the brutal honesty, the heartbreaking quality of Dept of Speculation, but it possesses a weird charm, a nostalgic enchantment. 8 year old Grace shares her childhood, split between a beguiling, off the rails mother and a stiff, somewhat distant but all the same loving father. Grace and her mum's - Anna- relationship is a seesaw: it can reach great heights, but it cannot avoid the heartbreaking fall of the frailest of the two.
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jenny Offill’s Last Things is a novel of ideas. Its immersion into the world of an eight-year-old child whose parents’ marriage — indeed her mother’s sanity — is unraveling leaves the reader with one question: Who is to blame for Grace’s confusion? The brilliant mother, Anna, an ornithologist who speaks five language, who home-schools her daughter into a world that mixes fact with fancy? Or the father, Jonathan, a private school chemistry teacher given the boot, who runs off to become television ...more
David Rush
Nov 04, 2014 rated it liked it
I bought this book at 2nd Ed. Books in the Raleigh Airport. I thought it was cool there was a used book store in an airport so I kind of wanted to buy something. So I just looked at covers an blurbs and bought this without checking any Goodreads or Amazon reviews. I had never heard of the author Jenny Offill.

I read about half of it on the plane slowly finished it off after getting home.

I offer all of that as a way to explain how I ended up reading this book. I like it, but dang it is an odd
Melissa McGowan
Feb 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
An excellent story. It's not easy to transport the adult reader to a child's perspective, but this book did that for me. I could also identify in some measure with the tragic mother and that was a bit unnerving. Jenny Offill's prose carries me along like a canoe ride without a lot of paddling. Loved it.
Andrew Bernstein
A pleasant surprise. Really connected with the writing style and it was funny and touching in places. 4.5 rounded up, just cuz.
Jun 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: women.
Shelves: fiction
I read Last Things in two days, actually lost sleep so I wouldn't have to put it down. Awesome first novel for Offill.
Amy Rhodes
Nov 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Oh well. Was very excited to find an early novel by Offill I had not known about but it did nothing for me.
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Jenny Offill's first novel, "Last Things," is largely a character study, so it might disappoint readers looking for an action-packed plot. The narrator is eight year old Grace, who tries to figure out the world, while watching her parents struggle. She has a whimsical mother, who tells Grace lots of wild stories, encourages her obsession with the unexplained, teaches her a secret language, and often brings her to look for Champ, the cryptid of Lake Champlain. Meanwhile, Grace's father is ...more
David Simonetti
Nov 23, 2007 rated it it was ok
I don't know why I read this. It was easy to read, but I found the plot nothing to write home about. I wouldn't waste my time on this.
Oct 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Charlotte Griggs
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
What an interesting novel given that it's told in the point of view of a young child, Grace. There's really no rhyme or reason behind the stories told by the girl. No purpose or meaning really.

Her mother tells her stories of life in Africa and of birds and of the solar system. She's quite the character and you can there's some psychological issues that slowly make their way through as Grace talks of her mother. It's saddening to see her treat her husband so poorly when he seems to care so
Dee Sanfilippo
May 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For me, the best stories are those that create further storytelling. This was one of those stories.

This novel is a smooth ride into frightening and dangerous territory. I found myself drawn in, alternately, by each of the three main charscters: Grace, 8 years old; Anna, her mother, and Jonathon, her father.

I loved all three of them. Watching Grace and her mother sharing stories and creating an imaginative world felt very familiar. Grace lives in the world I inhabited when I was very young. My
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jenny Offill's curious and clever "Last Things" is a wonderful exploration of the world through the lenses of young Grace and her relationship with her mother and father. Eight-year-old Grace pieces together her world through the fantastical stories her bird-loving mother tells her about a monster in the lake and African myths, as her scientific father grows increasingly uncomfortable with her teaching methods and the tightening bond his wife and daughter share, without him.

This novel is
May 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this book when it first came out in the 1990's and just re-read it this weekend. I love a book told from the POV of a child, and from this perspective, it did not disappoint. The writing is powerful and lyrical, and at the same time, haunting and tragic as Anna is obviously mentally ill. I loved Grace's perspective and attempts to make sense of her bizarre world. I was confused by the ending, though....wish I knew how that fit into the rest of the story.

May 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Dept. of Speculation was fantastic, but this next book by the author fell a little flat for me, almost as though it were trying too hard to be cryptic, and maybe I'm just not into it enough to figure it out. A young girl does the things young girls do, but is met with unpredictable responses by her mother, father, and babysitter, all of whom are a little self-centered and off-center. She describes many last things, an obsession she shares with her mother, that are mostly tragic.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 15, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I thought was a cute novel from the perspective of precocious and slightly awkward young narrator (à la Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) turned into a sad slog as we watch her mother slowly descend into madness. Offill's rich, poignant style felt plodding by the end. Bits of it reminded me of Goodbye Vitamin.
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Jenny Offill is an American author born in Massachusetts. Her first novel Last Things was published in 1999 was a New York Times Notable book and a finalist for the L.A Times First Book Award.

She is also the co-editor with Elissa Schappell of two anthologies of essays and the author of several children's books She teaches in the MFA programs at Brooklyn College, Columbia University and Queens
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“Where did all the words go?" I asked.
"They just wasted away," my mom explained, " like a leg you never walk on.”
“«Una volta» disse mia madre «non esisteva il buio totale. Persino di notte, la luna era luminosa quanto il sole. L’unica differenza stava nella luce, che era blu. Vedevi tutto per chilometri e chilometri e non faceva mai freddo. Si chiamava crepuscolo».
«Perché crepuscolo?».
«Perché è una parola in codice per cielo blu». Mi ero ricordata che si diceva codice blu quando moriva qualcuno, e anche questo aveva a che fare con il cielo.
Un giorno Dio aveva chiamato il pipistrello per dargli una cesta da portare sulla Luna. La cesta era piena di buio, ma Dio non aveva detto al pipistrello cos’era, solo “Portala sulla luna, poi quando torni ti spiego tutto”. Così il pipistrello parte in cerca della luna con la cesta in groppa. Mentre vola verso il cielo, la luna lo vede e si nasconde dietro una nuvola. Il pipistrello è stanco, e si ferma a riposare. Depone la cesta e va in cerca di qualcosa da mangiare. Mentre è a caccia, arrivano altri animali (più che altro lupi e cani, e anche un tasso con una zampa rotta). Pensando che nella cesta ci sia del cibo, gli animali alzano il coperchio, ma dentro c’è solo il buio, e loro non l’hanno mai visto. I cani e i lupi cercano di tirarlo fuori e di giocarci, ma gli guizza tra i denti e scivola via. In quel momento torna il pipistrello, apre la cesta e la trova vuota. Gli altri animali spariscono nella notte e il pipistrello si alza in volo per andare a riprendere il buio. Lo vede dappertutto, ma non riesce proprio a infilarlo di nuovo nella cesta. Per questo il pipistrello ancora oggi dorme tutto il giorno e vola di notte. Cerca sempre di riprendere il buio.”
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