Leslie Jamison at the NY Times:
Offill’s writing is shrewd on the question of whether intense psychic suffering heightens your awareness of the pain of others, or makes you blind to it. The answer, of course, is that it can do both; that it inevitably does both. Sometimes Offill’s narrators seem vulnerable to the delusion that their dysfunction sets them apart — that they are breaking down against the backdrop of others’ composure, which can come across as self-deprecation but is actually its own form of egotism. But part of the brilliance of Offill’s fiction is how it pushes back against this self-deception: “Stay, just stay,” the wife in “Dept. of Speculation” tells her suicidal student, a girl overcome by pain of her own; while Lizzie’s meditation teacher, who believes in reincarnation, insists that “everyone here has done everything to everyone else.” Lizzie is often overwhelmed by her interior landscape, but she is also often aware that everyone around her inhabits an interior landscape that feels just as intense; and that they are all inhabiting an exterior landscape with intensities of its own.