Never having read a book by Jenny Offill before, I wasn't sure what to expect when I opened her new 100-page book, Weather. Every article I read about Offill compares Weather with her debut novel from 2014, Dept. of Speculation, so having no context, I found Weather to be an absolute pleasure to fly through, despite the book's dark undertones.
It turns out Offill has a distinct writing style, telling her stories using short bursts of text, like a staccato stream-of-consciousness, or an hour-by-hour journal entry. This makes for easy breezy reading, especially when my attention span has been next to zero lately. Weather is set in New York City in 2016, around the time of the US presidential election, and is narrated by Lizzie, a PhD dropout turned university librarian, whose preoccupations oscillate between the quotidien tasks of packing her son's backpack or taking a failing car service to work, and the coming climate change-induced apocalypse.
The plot of Weather is hard to describe, in fact because it feels so "everyday." Lizzie, once a high-achiever, concentrates the efforts she once reserved for her studies on Henry, her drug addicted brother, often to the detriment of her relationship to her own husband and son. She attends a meditation class. She takes her son to school and observes the mothers of the other children. She researches ways to make candles out of household items when climate change shuts down the electrical grid (hint: use a can of oil-packed tuna).
Interspersed with interesting facts, anecdotes and jokes, which weave themselves into the story, Weather is unlike anything I have ever read. I felt a strong connection to Lizzie's focus on climate change, which is exacerbated by her work for a political activist/podcast host who lectures on the subject. Scrolling through the day's news or my Instagram feed, I'm often confronted with an article or a photo about climate change that sucks the wind out of me and brings me back to the reality we're all faced with: it's here, it's not going away, and the only thing I can do is to make a plan and go on living my life. However doom-y and gloomy the future may be, Offill manages to weave in plenty of dry humor and the minutia of the everyday to remind me that, while many of us are stuck in the paralysis of fear surrounding climate change, I'm still here, the dishes need to be done, and I've got a lot of wine to drink before the apocalypse.
I hope you'll give Weather a read! I'm looking forward to reading Jenny's other work!