Weather

A shimmering tour de force about a family, and a nation, in crisis.

Release Date
February 11, 2020
Author
Jenny Offill
Page Count
207 pages
Goodreads Rating
3.64
What to Expect
Apocalyptic themes; meditative, insightful
Who's it for
Existentialists
Genre
Literary Fiction / Contemporary / Environment

 

Cover

The ‘meh’ Australian release

The USA cover is sooooo good. I just adore the collage of vintage-looking imagery spliced together. Hints of weather patterns (highs and lows marked by arrows) along with whirling clouds juxtaposed against what I call ‘happy’ cumulonimbus clouds, and then just the hint of a woman’s face. The way her identity is somewhat uncertain reflects the uncertainty of her thoughts and position in the world.

The cover I was granted from my local Australian library was far less appealing to me. Yet, still emblematic of the book’s themes of upheaval and stirred up politics, and of course, the climate change narrative. Maybe I just don’t like blue?! Don’t hold it against me.

 

Young person worry: What if nothing I do matters? Old person worry: What if everything I do does?

— Jenny Offill, ‘Weather’

 

Prose

Jenny Offill’s work is shrewd and succinct. She manages to pair anxiety with humour and breeziness with the foreboding. It’s writing that’s meditative, pithy and warm.

“People always talk about email and phones and how they alienate us from one another, but these sorts of fears about technology have always been with us,” he claims.

When electricity was first introduced to homes, there were letters to the newspapers about how it would undermine family togetherness. Now there would be no need to gather around a shared hearth, people fretted. In 1903, a famous psychologist worried that young people would lose their connection to dusk and its contemplative moments.

Hahaha!

(Except when was the last time I stood still because it was dusk?)

— Jenny Offill, ‘Weather’

 

Premise

Lizzie Benson slid into her job as a librarian without a traditional degree. But this gives her a vantage point from which to practice her other calling: she is a fake shrink.

For years she has tended to her God-haunted mother and her recovering addict brother. They have both stabilized for the moment, but Lizzie has little chance to spend her new free time with husband and son before her old mentor, Sylvia Liller, makes a proposal. She’s 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 Lizzie 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 address the limits of her own experience–but still she tries to save everyone, using everything she’s learned about empathy and despair, conscience and collusion, from her years of wandering the library stacks . . . And all the while the voices of the city keep floating in–funny, disturbing, and increasingly mad.

(From the publisher.)

 

Review

Good things come in small packages, so they say. I heartily agree, and not just because I barely scrape over 5ft. Small books like Weather are good additions to your TBR list because they manage to squeeze so much power into bite-sized experiences.

You’ve got it all here: climate change, toxic politics around the 2016 election, ‘doomers’ prepping for disaster, and a woman trying to navigate her compulsion to provide psychological support for people in her life. *Phew*… I’m tired just thinking about it!

Yet, the writing is fabulous and the cadence of the narrative makes for approachable reading.

=It’s actually fascinating to read this book after the 2020 US presidential election. Now that Biden has been sworn in and power changed hands, the world’s eyes are watching to see how the country will maneuvre itself forward, after such a schism in its national identity. It really did feel — and maybe still does — that their nation was on the brink of something big, serious and scary.

 

My question for Will is: Does this feel like a country at peace or at war? I’m joking, sort of, but he answers seriously. He says it feels the way it does just before it starts. It’s a weird thing, but you learn to pick up on it. Even while everybody’s convincing themselves it’s going to be okay, it’s there in the air somehow. The whole thing is more physical than mental, he tells me. Like hackles? The way a dog’s hackles go up? Yes, he says.

— Jenny Offill, ‘Weather’

 

I love that Weather feels ‘plotless’ as you meander through protagonist Lizzie’s world of woe and wonder. I enjoyed the epiphanies she discovers amidst her complex world. This apocalyptic story set in the present day feels — quite unnervingly, I’ll admit — so very much our reality.

An elegant, articulate book and a new favourite author.

Weather
Cover
Prose
Characters
Plot
Ending
Small but mighty
Meditative, insightful,
Warm and humorous
Meandering 'plotless' plot
4.1
A colourful, curated blend of books, wine and creativity, with a soft spot for Australian work and female-centric narratives.


Fable and Fizz would like to acknowledge the Whadjuck Noongar people as the traditional owners and continual custodians on the lands and waters this content is primarily written on. I pay respects to their Elders — past and present. This always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.
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