Climate change concerns loom over Jenny Offill’s ‘Weather’

“How can we not be dooms to each other?”― Iris Murdoch,

What’s one to do when it feels as if the world is coming to the end? In the case of “Weather” the grasping fingers of doom cause a librarian to fall down the doomsday prepper rabbit hole. Our latest read takes us to the mind of a librarian living in New York City.

Weather by Jenny Offill

Lizzie is a librarian who lives her life with her finger hovering above the pause button, ready to stop her life in its tracks to care for her addict brother and shrinking mother. Snatches of Lizzie’s witty thoughts on marriage, motherhood and the declining state of the world litter the pages as she finds herself becoming increasingly anxious about the apocalypse.

Jenny Offill’s sophomore novel bounces from light observations on life in the city to ruminations on the best way to survive in an tense political atmosphere in an age of environmental doom. “Weather” is at first amusing as Lizzie tries to use her diverse collection of facts (courtesy of her library gig) to try and cheer others, acting as a quasi-therapist to all those in her life. As Offill builds upon the cloying sense of dread taking over Lizzie’s life, she still layers in the humor, but with a peppering of suggestions on how to survive the apocalypse by making candles from canned tuna and the positives of hoarding lighters.

Offill’s slim novel asks readers to contemplate how people go about finding fulfillment in life in an age of decaying society.

From the book jacket…

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.

If you enjoy…

Readers who found themselves captivated by Offill’s writing might also enjoy Sally Roony’s “Normal People.” Roony’s novel follows two characters that can’t quite seem to escape the magnetic pull they have over each other.