Weather

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 18 Feb 2020

Member Reviews

I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

A young librarian travels through life while raising her son, attempting an honest relationship with her husband, caring for her floundering brother, and loving her impoverished mother from a distance.
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Jenny Offil has written a great contemporary novel, the American equivalent to Ali Smith's emerging Seasons Quartet in Britain, works that seek to encapsulate the issues and crises that preoccupy readers at this moment in the 21st century. The main character goes about her days in Brooklyn, worried about everything but struggling to do her best as a parent, wife, sister, daughter, worker, friend, volunteer, New Yorker and citizen of the world. She has issues big and small and views them all through the same questioning, anxious, humorous and loving lens - never irritating with her incessant observations, always entertaining, and truly capable of growth, however painful or unexpected. Offil's spare, precise prose keeps the reader's attention throughout,  leaving us with a real feeling of loss when the story ends, not with a whimper or a bang, but a fittingly ambiguous statement from our heroine. We are left bereft, but hopeful, a unique tone that Offil achieves with breathtaking ease.
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Written in the same style as The Dept. of Speculation, Offill has again crafted a novel from snippets of thoughts that somehow leave a powerful impression.  Although there is a plot involving troubled family members and friends, this book has more to do with the development of our understanding of the protagonist Lizzie, a librarian who is also a therapist in the way of a bartender.  Librarians will recognize her astute and caring observations of patrons, and we can all relate to her fears and anxiety about climate change and the political strife of our times.  The paragraphs of only a couple of sentences read like stream of consciousness, but are very different from the long rambling approach taken by many authors.  What thinking person in this divisive time has not wondered "How can I tell if those around me would become good Germans?"  For readers who appreciate sparse and lyrical prose, this book will leave a lasting impression.
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This book reads like a fragmented diary scribbled into by a feverish brain, picked up and put down at random, never intended to be read by an audience. This gives the story of a woman who is worried about the world and everything else a sense of deep intimacy and transparency. I read it in one sitting and recognized many of my own preoccupations reflected on the page.
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This book is anxiety put to paper and many times it felt like I was reading a transcript of my internal monologue. It doesn't help that I too am a librarian riddled with anxiety for both the physical and social future of our world. "Weather" is the kind of book that I would have a hard time saying that I "enjoyed," per say. The structure of the novel, while it isn't for everyone, added to the feeling of panic and fragmented thought of the narrator. I would highly recommend it to anyone worried about the future, but I'd warn them that it might be cold comfort.
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I wasn't sure that this book would be something I would enjoy. It seemed too short in length to fulfill all the promises made in the synopsis, but this book delivers! It was a quick read, written in snippets that moved as fast as a thinker changes ideas. It was just quirky enough to work and not be confusing. The format was focused and entertaining and never boring.
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I am not sure I would have finished this book if I wasn’t reviewing it. It all came together in the end, as Lizzie uses the accumulation of knowledge she’s gained while being a librarian. She’s got a marriage, a busy son, a crazy mentor who Lizzie is helping, her brother, a former addict who is now a father and a mother obsessed by God. How can she juggle all their problems along with her own is quite an adventure and I am glad I finished the book. If you are looking for a book with strict plot structure, this isn’t it, but it’s a good look at a woman’s fragmented life and how she copes with everything that she must.
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This short little book will sweep you along in its panicked but somehow also soothing tone. Following the thoughts of a woman, an employee, a mother, a person in this world, readers see the world as it is. It carried me along and I thoroughly enjoyed the read.
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Jenny Offill has secured her place as a new master. Weather is impeccable, stunning, breathtaking. Offill's unique style opens doors, seeming to let a fresh wind sweep away works that explore similar themes but in familiar and sometimes tired ways. I am grateful for Offill's work, which lends fresh insight and new space to themes of empathy, professionalism, gender roles, relationships, and more.
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This is a strange, quick book that I enjoyed despite not really being sure where the author was taking nor why it is titled Weather, perhaps because it is as prosaic a subject as any. The main character is curious, but there are no big changes in her life
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Fans of Dept. of Speculation will also enjoy this book.  I found her descriptions of the main character's climate anxiety both nervewracking and comforting in its ability to name a feeling I often share.  The characters are specific and realistic; the conflict is small but essential.
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Jenny Offill perfectly captures the anxiety inherent in living during today's age. I greatly enjoyed this book and will be recommending it highly.
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Just a page or two in, and I was already wishing the book was longer…  Angsty snippets reflecting the all- too- real and often frightening state of our existence, yet leaving the reader wanting MORE.
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I would definitely recommend this to any fans of Offill’s earlier Dept. of Speculation. The style and movement of the prose is very similar to what I remember of that book. Unfortunately, I found this to be a harder read because there’s so much hopelessness built into it. There’s hopelessness in the way the main character deals with her anxiety about climate change, and in the way she approaches her marriage, and in her relationship with her brother. It all feels real and at least somewhat relatable, but it is very heavy. Even many of the (many) sharp, witty, and perfectly apt observations, especially about academics, become darker as the story moves on. Still, I’m not sure I’ve ever read a work of fiction that nails it so perfectly when describing male audience members at an author/speaker talk.
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If you are a fan of fiction with a librarian protagonist, like the Time Traveler's Wife, this is worth a read,. As a librarian I liked the authors insights into an academic library's patron base.
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Lizzie lives in New York City in Little Pakistan. She works in a college library but is not an actual librarian. She’s a former psychology student who answers email for her former professor, Sylvia (who’s on the lecture circuit and pressed for time), so Lizzie is answering questions sent to a psychologist without being an actual psychologist.
Lizzie is a very real “doomer” and “prepper” for a post-climate change planet, however. She frets endlessly over “the numbers,” her son’s future, and the political direction of the USA. She wonders about what country she and her family should migrate to and build a “doomstead”—a homestead following the climate apocalpse--and she flees to this fantasy doomstead in her head and plots her supplies in detail, when she is supposed to be taking up meditation.

Lizzie doesn’t actually have the money to migrate anywhere—money is short. She can’t even, due to the neediness of her brother Henry, go on vacation to Canada with her family, who go on vacation without her. Since Canada would be a genuine location for her “doomstead,” it is ironic that Lizzie can’t manage to get there. The codependent Henry and his disastrous life seem like more than enough doom for Lizzie to manage—there is a personal apocalypse unfolding in her house. While her family is in Canada, a handsome man catches her eye in the subway. Lizzie gets to know him, and, like the fake shrink that she is, begins analyzing both him and their whole situation to death.

You’d call Lizzie neurotic if she didn’t have dozens of very real stressors plaguing her. Between the students, the professors, her precocious small son, her poor and eccentric mother, her addict brother, and Mr. Subway Temptation, Lizzie isn’t just a woman in a typical “sandwich generation” situation, she’s a tall hoagie. The novel is written with aplomb with Lizzie a very relatable first-person narrator and it reads as intimately as a memoir, only occasionally becoming too vague (in political references, for instance) to confuse the reader. Lizzie's beleaguered and nimble brain spins in myriad delightful directions as the reader hopes that she will get a grip, or find some answers, or that the greater world around her (and us) will become less threatening.

I received an advanced readers copy of this book from the publisher and was encouraged to submit a review.
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An odd and interesting book. I'm not quite sure if experimental fiction is an appropriate genre, but the book was made up of short snippets that make up the life and observations of the narrator - almost like the Coles note version of "Ducks, Newburyport." It feels like a very 2019 novel, made for short attention spans and the continuous desire to check our phones. The topics discussed in the novel - Trump, meditation, preppers, helicopter parenting - also dates the book in a way that makes me wonder how it will age. I would have liked a little more from the book and it felt too brief to really make an impact on me as a reader.
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I understand the fuss about Jenny Offill now. Weather is an amazing work of fiction that captures so much of what I feel living in the world today: the dread, the anxiety, the helplessness in the face of climate change. And it’s not just the content that made me love this book. The way that it’s written, in impressionistic glimpses into the life of Lizzie, as she tries to be all things to all of the people in her life. Even though the tension in this book built with every page, I felt a strange sense of relief as I read it that I wasn’t the only one to feel all of those feelings whenever I read about the latest acts of the US government, the fires and disasters around the world, and the inertia that seems to prevent us from doing anything about all of this.

Lizzie has more of what I’ve had from time to time. I’m not sure what it is about librarians but, sometimes, people tell us things. People tell things that they should probably keep to themselves to Lizzie all the time. They confess things to her. Her former addict brother, especially, tells Lizzie all of the terrible things he thinks when he lets his anxiety spiral. When Lizzie takes on a part-time job answering questions for her former mentor, who runs a podcast and gives lectures about how to live when climate change irreparably disrupts how our world functions, it gets worse. In spite of all of the psychological pressure, Lizzie carries on with her ordinary life. She takes her son to school. She sustains her marriage to a sweet man with his own worries. Lizzie is a lot like the rest of us. We have to keep going on with our lives even when there are so many existential threats, within and without.

What’s absolutely brilliant about Weather is the way that Offill creates all of this from brief passages of dialogue, jokes that Lizzie shares with her husband, bits of emails from her other job, and encounters with library patrons. At first, I wasn’t sure how to piece things together. The text doesn’t give things away easily. When I stopped trying to put the pieces together and let it wash over me, I felt like I was starting to feel the panic of Lizzie, her brother, and her husband—a panic so like my own when I spend too much time on Twitter.

As the pages started to count down to the end, I started to wonder how all of this dread was going to be resolved. Good fiction has to give some kind of catharsis and resolution by the end. I wanted that catharsis because so much of the emotion kicked up by Weather is exactly what I and so many people feel about the world around us. If I could figure out how Offill’s characters deal with it, perhaps I could use it in my own life and share it around with others. The good news is that I think I found something to help me cope. The bad news is that it was an emotional realization that you can only get by reading Weather, preferable in one dose so that you get the full psychological impact.

The other thing I learned when I read this was what people mean when they say that they’ve read a book that made them feel seen. Being a person with a diagnosed anxiety disorder, I don’t feel like there’s a lot of fiction about the condition. I like to read about heroes who can put aside their worries and do the thing. There are plenty of these characters out there in literature for me to admire and learn from. But it’s hard for a writer to really capture what it feels like when your thoughts run away from you and think up the worst possible futures for you to fret about. Characters who can do the thing, instead of constantly worrying about all the ways that the thing can go wrong, are much more engaging to read about. Panic is not a fun experience, in life or in print. But, I feel grateful (a new reading emotion for me) for having read this book. I really do. Weather was perfect for me. And I suspect that it will be perfect for a lot of other readers out there, who feel like the world is spinning out of control.
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This book is an exercise in mindful reading.  The format is interesting with almost journal style paragraphs that jump around in subject matter.  Nonetheless the plot through-line is strong, interesting, and super smart.  This book won't be for everyone, but it should be.
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An interesting and quick read. The book is written in little snippets of the narrator's life over a few years. The jumps between scenes were a little jarring at first but I actually enjoyed the writing style and how Offill presents the ups and downs of the narrators life. For such small bursts of information, we still get quite a lot of information and character development from the narrator and supporting characters.
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