Review: Weather by Jenny Offill

Let me start with a random story about Jenny Offill. Because it’s relevant, I’ll mention that I read and loved her Dept. of Speculation just before my first husband and I decided to file for divorce. Her poignant narrative of a marriage spoke to me at a time when I needed to hear it.

So, for my 30th birthday, as that divorce was finalizing, I took a weeklong solo trip to Chicago during which the Printers Row Lit Fest occurred. I happened to have a bookseller friend there who got me into an afterparty. He wasn’t a very good friend, though, because he introduced me to a group by first names only and then disappeared on me. I spent the evening talking to this group of three people I was pretty sure were all authors about cover blurbs and other writerly things, feeling awkward about the fact that I am not a writer. It wasn’t until two of them were exchanging contact info at the end of the night that I realized the Jenny I had been talking to for hours had written my favorite book of the year.

She was lovely, by the way.

Anyway, when I saw that Weather was coming out, I had to have it. I legitimately did not read the synopsis, and certainly not any cover blurbs. I need to be clear: Jenny Offill does not write the kind of fiction that people rush to the bookstore to buy and then cannot put down. She writes the kind of fiction that you pause to digest, sleep on, meditate on. Weather is no different. Despite the short vignettes it’s written in, I read it slowly. I did it in three sittings, all after my boys went to bed so I could give it my full attention.

Weather is the story of a family dealing with the fact that by the time their son is grown, the planet will be unlivable. Well, sometimes they’re dealing with it, sometimes they’re ignoring it, sometimes they’re running from it. But as the world changes, we get to peek in at how they change, but also how, in the face of this, they stay the same. Offill has taken what’s usually a loud, fast-paced setting and made it all the louder for the reader by making it eerily quiet. We meander towards the end of the world. We suffer, but we also keep going as we always have.

Just like Dept. of Speculation, this book spoke to me. It is definitely for fans of more literary work, but also anyone who loves a realistic family story.

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