Jenny Offill |  Fiction, 2020

204?/225? pages


Recommended by my colleague and friend Dan, I don’t seem to understand this little book.  Lizzie is a librarian in a University library.  She helps her drug-addicted brother cope and maybe recover; she fantasizes about the end of the world and prepares for her “doomstead;” she clearly loves her son Eli and her husband Ben.   Some reviewers say she is an amateur therapist, but I see no evidence of that in the book.  She asks an insightful question sometimes.  That’s all.  There are many interesting sentences and paragraphs but no discernible plot.  Reviews are mostly 5’s and 1’s ... not a lot of middle road.  I will look forward to reading about what you liked about this book, Dan, and anyone else who read it and liked it.



2 responses on “Weather

  1. Daniel Murphy

    Though I’m in the category that would award 5 stars to this book, my 5 stars come with caveats. As Andrea noted, this book has no plot. The protagonist communicates to the reader in short bursts, sometimes sent skyward, like fireworks, sometimes more darkly, like depth charges. One could think of this book as a pseudo-memoir, and memoirs don’t have “plots”, they simply record life as it happens, leaving the reader considerable freedom to interpret the life portrayed.

    The protagonist, by my take, assists in doing the research, and sometimes the writing, of a column that attempts to answer random questions about the world that we live in. This device allows author Jenny Offill a near perfect way to portray the almost overwhelming absurdity of the world in which we all are trying, often unsuccessfully, to make sense of. A library assistant (our protagonist), situated in a repository of knowledge, is perfectly suited to sit at the nexus of a huge accumulation of facts, with no reliable way of shaping this information into an intelligible creed to live by. She is battered by absurdities, all of which are painfully true, rather than being disposable as conspiracy theories. Today, with the triple crises of the pandemic, the explosion of race-related tensions, and historic political upheaval in my favorite country, her search for some sort of meaning in the avalanche of information coming at her, resonates deeply with me.

    The doomstead aspect of the book, preparing a safe place for herself and her family, also resonates with me. I would go as far as to say that after witnessing how fragile food and other essential supply lines are during the pandemic, if you aren’t thinking about what would happen if a REAL pandemic, with a mortality rate of 20%, instead of less than 1%, you’re not paying close attention. But for our protagonist, it’s not the pandemic, it’s the constant sense of an unknown doom lurking just beyond the horizion: environmental catastrophe, fear of a totalitarian government, and a list of other dimly perceived threats based on her exposure to multiple different trends through her job of relentlessly processing information and trying to make it coherent,

    So…should you read it? Not necessarily. If you liked Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America, odds are good that you’ll like this book. If you are interested in observing how an intelligent woman battered by social mores, existential threats, and loneliness in the midst of unending human cacophony, finds a thread of meaning just thick enough to tie a knot in and hang onto for dear life: Go for it! If you prefer plot, logical progression, life distilled to the easily digestible contents of a nutshell…look elsewhere.

    Lastly: it’s a love story. I like love stories. Particularly ones that end in the way this one did.

    1. Andrea Sigetich Post author

      Cool review! I didn’t read most of this into this story; it is almost like we read different books. I think I will go peruse it again …