By Taylor Brown, Correspondent
“Weather,” a 2020 novel by Jenny Offill, depicts the day-to-day life of an average woman speaks volumes on the nature of our country, success, and humanity as a whole.
The novel follows a Ph.D. dropout named Lizzie who works as a librarian in a university library. She has spent a vast majority of her life caring for other people. She sacrificed her time and livelihood to support her brother’s addiction recovery and difficult mother. She’s contacted by an old friend, Sylvia Liller, who now creates an award-winning podcast called “Hell and High Water.”
Sylvia recruits Lizzie to return letters to inquiring listeners. Through her new line of work, Lizzie steps into the lives of strangers, offering insight and advice to a variety of different people. The mail she receives is highly juxtaposed, and finds herself responding to radical conservatives fretting over the loss of western values, and liberals concerned with the climate crisis.
With a grand influx of new perspectives, Lizzie takes a new outlook on her own life. She begins to ponder her values, priorities, the direction in which she sends her energy. After agonizing over the wellbeing of those around her, Lizzie finds a new prime concern: Lizzie. As Lizzie’s internal journey continues, so do the lives of the people in her city. She learns to navigate a newly recognized life, and the people in it.
Written in an abstract yet poised manner, “Weather” uses small snippets of daily life to describe a larger picture of the human condition. The novel is short, just two hundred pages, yet captures a diverse selection of opinions and experiences.
Ultimately, Jenny Offill provides an incredibly relevant take on the United States today. From the viewpoint of one woman who stands in the background of her own life, “Weather” is able to take a snapshot of the modern world. In a way, Lizzie’s complex character represents us all. No matter your age, status, occupation or identity, we are all trying to best live the lives given to us.
Weather is certainly a five-star read, an all-encompassing story of so much more than what lies on the page.