Reviewed by Meghan Vermeer
Weather, by Jenny Offill, is written from the perspective of Lizzie, a librarian who stumbled upon her career. Rather than focusing on one particular conflict, the novel is written in a free form, stream of consciousness style. Several conflicts are discussed periodically: her relationships with her husband and son, her addict brother who becomes a father, and most prominently, her own fear of the apocalyptic future. All of these conflicts are made worse by Lizzie’s new side hustle—answering letters in a Q&A style for a doomsday podcast.
Anxiety is a huge theme of this novel, as well as prepping for the future as a direct result of that anxiety. Lizzie constantly wonders what she will do to survive in the event of a disaster. How will she get food? What kind of water can she drink? Where is the best area to find shelter? As a librarian, Lizzie has access to answers about all of these questions and more, but her anxiety over a potential future begins to affect relationships in her life.
When it comes to literary quality, Weather gives me so many mixed emotions. Much of it is well-done, and several lines are still ringing in my head days later. One in particular is, “My number one fear is the acceleration of days. No such thing supposedly, but I swear I can feel it.” I can’t stop thinking about this line because wow, it’s so true! And this is just one of many. On the other hand, the free form style is difficult to follow, and even more difficult to keep characters straight. Because readers jump from thought to thought with narrator Lizzie, only bits of information about her life and the people in it are added at a time. This gets confusing, but the issue could probably be solved with longer reading times, rather than short reading sessions over a long period of time.
If you are a fan of the free form style, check out Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. I reviewed this one recently and loved it! It leans much more poetic than Weather, but the style is similar. Another author that writes in this style that is almost like stream of consciousness is James Joyce. His works have been around for quite some time, but they seem to make the literary folks happy!
Personally, I was not a huge fan of this book and wouldn’t recommend it. The free form style was difficult for me to follow, which made this short book a long read. I will say, however, that there are so many phenomenal lines and paragraphs that I will be thinking about for a while! If you have time to read it all in one go, it might be a lot less confusing.