A narrator scrambling to make sense of the changes in and around her, a brother who’s an addict and a dependent, a professor with a podcast that tries to raise awareness about climate change and its sweeping impact, the backdrop of a time defined by hate and divisional politics and also by cultural conflation are all encased in Jenny Offill’s short bursts of detached yet potent writing.
Offill’s Weather does not only talk about the external weather, which of course is the larger focus of the novella. But Offill does hone in on our interior lives, the storms we weather everyday—the beleaguered relationships, the guilt of careers not pursued, the crushes that never quite turn into affairs, the parenting that we feel like we’re almost always failing at.
At its core, Weather is about a part-time librarian Lizzie who replies to the queries received by her once grad-school professor, Sylvia, in response to her portentous podcast. She notices that the tone of the replies gradually turns more and more despondent. The tumult in her personal life intensifies concomitantly with the worsening environmental condition.
Weather is unconventional in its narrative and execution; there are apparently many plot-lines but none reach resolution. For a reader, this could go either way. It may seem to hint at the potentiality of things to branch off into myriad possibilities or it may appear to be merely a clever ornamentation. I found myself languishing somewhere between these two alternatives, struggling to love Offill but discerning the ambition of her work regardless. For the reluctant reader, the good news is the book’s size—it’s a rather short book which you can easily see through in one sitting.