Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

BookBrowse Reviews Weather by Jenny Offill

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Weather

by Jenny Offill

Weather by Jenny Offill X
Weather by Jenny Offill
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2020, 224 pages

    Paperback:
    Jan 2021, 224 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


Jenny Offill's slim but sobering novel Weather offers room for reflection on the personal and the political—and how the two are intertwined.

When I first picked up Jenny Offill's new novel Weather and began to read, it immediately brought to mind one of my favorite novels of 2019: Lucy Ellmann's Ducks, Newburyport. Now, on the surface of things, these two works of fiction could not appear less alike; Ducks, Newburyport clocks in at nearly 1000 pages, made up mostly of a single long sentence with few section breaks, while Weather is less than 200 pages, with plenty of white space throughout. But bear with me here. The thing both novels do—each in its own brilliant way—is to enter the consciousness of a contemporary American woman navigating crises of family and parenting while also grappling with world events, namely the Trump presidency and the impending climate crisis. Both novels validate and celebrate the knowledge and lived experience of their protagonists, and both create immersive, exciting experiences for readers.

This is the first Offill novel I've read, though I know her prior work—especially her Dept. of Speculation—has been widely praised for its rich intellectualism and its delicately crafted prose fragments, both of which are also on display here. As with Dept. of Speculation, Weather is in some ways a portrait of a marriage, as narrator Lizzie contends with the stress imposed on her relationship with her husband by the reentry into their lives of Lizzie's drug-addicted brother, Henry. Henry, whose prior crises derailed Lizzie's graduate studies, initially seems on track for his healthiest recovery to date—complete with a loving wife and a newborn daughter whom he adores. But soon Henry's fears for his daughter's safety—fears stoked in large part by the 2016 election and its aftermath—grow unbearable and threaten to destroy all that's good in his life.

Uncomfortable intersections of political and global phenomena with personal experiences surface again and again in Weather. Like her brother, Lizzie finds her thoughts turning to global crises, particularly the climate emergency and its likely acceleration under a Trump administration. This preoccupation arises in large part from Lizzie's work answering listener questions posed to her former graduate school mentor, Sylvia, whose podcast Hell and High Water has been attracting more and more attention. "What are the best ways to prepare my children for the coming crisis?...How do you maintain your optimism?" These are just a couple of the questions Lizzie fields—with answers that grow progressively more abstract and open-ended as her own certainty collapses in the face of increasingly certain doom.

As Lizzie and her husband ponder how to possibly keep their family, their country and their planet safe, she contemplates how best to keep dread at bay: "I keep wondering how we might channel all of this dread into action?" Is the answer in firearms? In religion? In infidelity? In therapy? In an apocalyptic prepper mentality? Lizzie, who works as a research librarian in addition to the job she does for Sylvia's podcast, finds, if not comfort exactly, then at least food for thought in points from a variety of sources—from Buddhist theology to disaster psychology to world history. These points unfold in sections ranging in length from a page to a single sentence, a structure that invites frequent pauses for reflection during the reading experience. For example: "There's that idea in the different mystic traditions. Of the veil. What if we were to tear through it?"

"How do you maintain your optimism?" That question is at the heart of Jenny Offill's Weather. Although the novel raises far more questions than it answers (and that's part of the point, after all), Lizzie's experience seems to suggest that the answer to this main question lies in understanding and forgiveness—for our families, for our neighbors, for utter strangers and, not least of all, for ourselves.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in March 2020, and has been updated for the February 2021 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Climate Change Podcasts

Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Weather, try these:

  • Blue Skies jacket

    Blue Skies

    by T.C. Boyle

    Published 2024

    About this book

    More by this author

    From best-selling novelist T. C. Boyle, a satirical yet ultimately moving send-up of contemporary American life in the glare of climate change.

  • Tides jacket

    Tides

    by Sara Freeman

    Published 2023

    About this book

    An intoxicating, compact debut novel by the winner of Columbia's Henfield Prize, Tides is an astoundingly powerful portrait of a deeply unpredictable woman who walks out of her life and washes up in a seaside town.

We have 10 read-alikes for Weather, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
More books by Jenny Offill
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Demon of Unrest
    The Demon of Unrest
    by Erik Larson
    In the aftermath of the 1860 presidential election, the divided United States began to collapse as ...
  • Book Jacket: Daughters of Shandong
    Daughters of Shandong
    by Eve J. Chung
    Daughters of Shandong is the debut novel of Eve J. Chung, a human rights lawyer living in New York. ...
  • Book Jacket: Anita de Monte Laughs Last
    Anita de Monte Laughs Last
    by Xochitl Gonzalez
    Brooklyn-based novelist Xochitl Gonzalez is an inspiring writer to follow. At forty, she decided to ...
  • Book Jacket: Icarus
    Icarus
    by K. Ancrum
    The titular protagonist of K. Ancrum's young adult novel Icarus lives a double life that mixes the ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
The Familiar
by Leigh Bardugo
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo comes a spellbinding novel set in the Spanish Golden Age.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Stolen Child
    by Ann Hood

    An unlikely duo ventures through France and Italy to solve the mystery of a child’s fate.

  • Book Jacket

    This Strange Eventful History
    by Claire Messud

    An immersive, masterful story of a family born on the wrong side of history.

Win This Book
Win Only the Brave

Only the Brave by Danielle Steel

A powerful, sweeping historical novel about a courageous woman in World War II Germany.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

F T a T

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.