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.
“My # 1 fear is the acceleration of days. No such thing supposedly, but I swear I can feel it.”
“Weather” by Jenny Offill instantly attracted my attention when it was published earlier this year as it sounded great. The story takes the form of one woman’s inner monologue. Lizzie Benson is a librarian at a university, fighting her own personal issues as well as the wider issue of climate change. There’s a lot going on in Lizzie’s life and therefore there’s a lot going on in her stream of consciousness too.
I don’t know if I missed something, or if it came across differently in the audiobook, or maybe it was just me, but for quite a lot of the time, I didn’t actually know what was happening and found it tricky to keep up. The story is told in snippets, which are seemingly disjointed, jumping from one subject to another. I know from reading the rave reviews of others, that this is a clever writing style with an important message, but to be completely honest, I found the plot to be lucklustre and I couldn’t really get into it.
What I was able to follow was well written and the beginning few chapters really did have me hooked. There are some truly lovely quotes in this story, but in general I found this book to be quite strange and I don’t think I have understood the message it’s trying to tell. I know that this book has been enjoyed by loads of people, so I think I’d like to give it a second try at some point, perhaps reading the traditional book next time.
Overall rating: “Weather” wasn’t really a book I can say I enjoyed. I struggled to follow along some parts as the subjects flicked around in this inner monologue. This wasn’t for me, but it’s clear that it appeals to a lot of people and has been nominated for several prizes. Perhaps I’ll give it another try some time down the line.