To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Instead, our system considers things like how recent a review is and if the reviewer bought the item on Amazon. It also analyses reviews to verify trustworthiness.
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.
I have mixed feelings about this book. No doubt it is beautifully written, almost like a prose poem, written in short bursts of streamlined thought. There is minimal plot: a librarian living in this time of acute climate uncertainty, whose existential dread unravels her and the people around her.
I have always believed that the purpose of a story is to illuminate transformation. The only transformation is this novel is a woman who goes from anxiety about potential doom to acceptance of inevitable doom. And to provide a detailed listing of all the ways in which urban elites are planning to survive the earth's destruction. (Getting three passports for their children, so they can quickly move and work to any country that might be stable; learning survival skills; booking space travel.)
Dear God though. It is so depressing. Perhaps because it feels so real, this sense of inevitable doom. It reads like a book intended to be put in a time capsule, so the aliens who find this dessicated planet centuries from now will be able to understand what life was like for urban elites living near the end of time.
But for those of us who are living right now, at least for this person, I have a hard time co-signing on such despair. I just can’t do it Perhaps our life on earth is temporary. Wait, strike that: for CERTAIN, our life on earth is temporary. It always has been and always will be. So why spend it in such a state of despair?
Weather, a novel by Jenny Offill, is as satisfying as twee appetizers without a main course. In other words, not at all nourishing. Lizzie is a happily married woman with a well-adjusted young son and a brother who struggles with addiction, although not in crisis mode. Having dropped out of graduate school, she works in a university library and assists a former professor obsessed with climate change. Nothing changes for Lizzie. She has momentary twinges of fear about how to prepare for ecological disaster, but her life remains inert. The existential dread isn’t even very dreadful. Perhaps that’s the book’s message, that we fret yet do nothing. But as packaged in a somewhat random assortment of social-media length blurbs, the readers’ interest is no more sustainable than the planet. This quippy style seems to be a trend in recent fiction. It’s no longer experimental, and in the case of Weather, not even very imaginative. As an author myself (see my Amazon author page www.amazon.com/author/asewovenwords), who prefers books with well developed characters and engaging narratives, I worry that writers and readers like me are doomed to extinction.