Summary and book reviews of Weather by Jenny Offill

Weather

by Jenny Offill

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

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2020, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2021, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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About this Book

Book Summary

From the author of the nationwide bestseller Dept. of Speculation--one of the New York Times Book Review's Ten Best Books of the Year--a shimmering tour de force about a family, and a nation, in crisis.

Lizzie Benson slid into her job as a librarian without a traditional degree. But this gives her a vantage point from which to practice her other calling: she is a fake shrink. For years she has tended to her God-haunted mother and her recovering addict brother. They have both stabilized for the moment, but Lizzie has little chance to spend her new free time with husband and son before her old mentor, Sylvia Liller, makes a proposal. She's become famous for her prescient podcast, Hell and High Water, and wants to hire Lizzie to answer the mail she receives: from left-wingers worried about climate change and right-wingers worried about the decline of western civilization.

As Lizzie dives into this polarized world, she begins to wonder what it means to keep tending your own garden once you've seen the flames beyond its walls. When her brother becomes a father and Sylvia a recluse, Lizzie is forced to address the limits of her own experience--but still she tries to save everyone, using everything she's learned about empathy and despair, conscience and collusion, from her years of wandering the library stacks...And all the while the voices of the city keep floating in--funny, disturbing, and increasingly mad.

One

In the morning, the one who is mostly enlightened comes in. There are stages and she is in the second to last, she thinks. This stage can be described only by a Japanese word. "Bucket of black paint," it means.

I spend some time pulling books for the doomed adjunct. He has been working on his dissertation for eleven years. I give him reams of copy paper. Binder clips and pens. He is writing about a phi­losopher I have never heard of. He is minor, but instrumental, he told me. Minor but instrumental!

But last night, his wife put a piece of paper on the fridge. Is what you're doing right now making money? it said.

The man in the shabby suit does not want his fines lowered. He is pleased to contribute to our institu­tion. The blond girl whose nails are bitten to the quick stops by after lunch and leaves with a purse full of toilet paper.

I brave a theory about vaccinations and another about late capitalism. "Do you ever wish you were thirty again?" asks the lonely heart ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

"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...continued

Full Review (616 words).

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(Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Media Reviews

Washington Post
Offill is in total control here, and all the asides, jokes and Q&As reflect the fraying state of Lizzie’s mind as her concerns over the climate crisis, the Trump administration, pernicious algorithms and other man-made threats intensify...Lizzie never succumbs to hopelessness. Neither does Offill. Weather is too sharp a book to allow for pessimism or apathy.

The Guardian
Reading Weather made me grind my teeth at night, just like its narrator – but it is certainly a brilliant exemplar for the autofictional method. Offill pulls us in close in order to make us worry about things outside us; mirrors the self to show us what we are selfishly ignoring.

New York Times
Offill’s writing is shrewd on the question of whether intense psychic suffering heightens your awareness of the pain of others, or makes you blind to it...[her] fragmentary structure evokes an unbearable emotional intensity: something at the core of the story that cannot be narrated directly, by straight chronology, because to do so would be like looking at the sun. In Dept. of Speculation, that white-hot core was the heartbreak of domestic collapse. In Weather, the collapse exists on a scale at once broader and more abstract: the end of the world itself.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Lizzie's apocalyptic worries are bittersweet, but also always wry and wise. Offill offers an acerbic observer with a wide-ranging mind in this marvelous novel.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Clever and seductive...the "weather" of our days both real and metaphorical, is perfectly captured in Offill's brief, elegant paragraphs, filled with insight and humor. Offill is good company for the end of the world.

Booklist (starred review)
Revelatory...Offill, who will delight fans of Lydia Davis and Joy Williams, performs breathtaking emotional and social distillation in this pithy and stealthily resonant tale of a woman trying to keep others, and herself, from "tipping into the abyss."

Author Blurb Ocean Vuong
This is so good. We are not ready nor worthy.

Author Blurb Ben Lerner
Jenny Offill writes beautiful sentences; she is also a deft curator of silences. It's this counterpoint of eloquence and felt absence that enables her to register the emotional and political weather of our present.

Author Blurb Jia Tolentino
No one writes about the intersection of love and existential despair like Jenny Offill.

Author Blurb Sheila Heti
Jenny Offill conjures entire worlds with her steady, near-pointillist technique. One feels a whole heaving, breathing universe behind her every line. Dread, the sensation of sinking, lostness, and being cast away from any sense of safety infiltrates every interaction and private moment in this book, like ashes from the burning world she describes.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Climate Change Podcasts

Person Holding Smartphone with Tree Reflected in Screen Part of the plot of Jenny Offill's Weather involves the protagonist, Lizzie, answering questions posed by listeners to her former academic mentor's disaster-preparedness podcast, Hell and High Water. As issues surrounding climate change increasingly propel public conversation, real-world counterparts to this fictional podcast abound. Here is a roundup of some of the best podcasts for understanding the climate emergency.

Climate One
This weekly podcast grew out of an influential forum that brings together leaders in the fields of energy, the economy and the environment. Timely topics include climate psychology and climate and human migration; the program also profiles notable scientists and authors working and writing in these fields. ...

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