Weather (Granta Publications 2020) by American author Jenny Offill is the delightful book that I’ve been quoting from all week on Twitter. Somewhere between Max Porter and George Saunders and our own clever Laura Elvery, Offill imbues every sentence with a breathtaking beauty that stopped my heart. So many ideas that resonated as true. So many startling observations that are familiar and yet somehow extraordinary because she has written down the words and we have read them.
A slim book of a series of disconnected paragraphs gathered into six sections, Weather is ostensibly the story of Lizzie, an accidental librarian, who spends her days people-watching and occasionally acting as counsellor or psychologist for those around her. (She has neither a medical degree nor even a librarian accreditation.) Her brother is a recovering drug addict. Her mother is a God-obsessed believer. Her husband Ben is calm and patient. Their son Eli is a constant source of wonder. When Lizzie’s old mentor, Sylvia, asks her to help answer the mail Sylvia receives from her popular and prescient podcast, Lizzie delves into the esoteric, evangelical, existential, doomsday, prepper and ethical dilemmas expressed by everyone from left-wing climate change worriers to right-wingers bemoaning the decline of Western civilisation.
This is such a well-crafted book. Every paragraph is a little jewel. I found myself often stopping and re-reading, or taking a photo to tweet to the world, because I wanted to share what I’d found. This treasure.
These are three of my favourite bits, but there are so many!
‘A few days later, I yelled at him for losing his new lunch box, and he turned to me and said, Are you sure you’re my mother? Sometimes you don’t seem like a good enough person.’
He was just a kid, so I let it go. And now, years later, I probably only think of it, I don’t know, once or twice a day.’
Oh! The guilt of motherhood!
‘It’s slow today so I help her set up for [meditation] class. Cushions for the strong, chairs for the weak. “You should stay,” she tells me, but I never do. Not sure where to sit.’
(Yes! Where do I sit on that scale??)
‘He had a melodious voice. I wanted every day to be like this, to begin in shame and fear and end in glorious reassurance.
Do not believe that because you are a revolutionary you must feel sad.’
This is a strange, compelling literary tale and I loved it.