So, if you are a naturally anxious person, this read is going to go one of two ways.
You’re either going to take comfort in not being alone in the universe, or you are going to want to double your meds.
Weather, by Jenny Offill, is a fast but mega-anxious read for today’s times. I can hardly imagine if she had held out another few years so she could have included impeachment and the coronavirus in her tale of a nearing-middle-age woman trying to navigate her day-to-day apprehensions with a husband, a young son, and an addict brother.
Lizzie is a kinda sorta librarian on a college campus, which would be a dream job except for the fact she’s got access to read all the doomsday prep material she can get her hands on, all the while working a side gig as the personal assistant to an old mentor — Sylvia — who is a renowned climate fatalist.
And between juggling Sylvia’s in-box and library patron questions and oddities, she parents precocious Eli with her husband, Ben, a gaming/coder who appears to be beyond patient with Lizzie’s brother Henry, a couch surfer and general risk to himself and others.
For me, seeing flickers of myself in books is always comforting, even if the characters are a little on the crazy side. It’s validation. It’s a “Yes, these are not normal times” reminder. And it’s a coping mechanism. To be able to take pieces of books and be able to define what you haven’t been quite able to put words to. Like scrolling on Twitter, alternating between white-hot rage and gutsplitting laughter. Or daydreaming about a “doomstead.” (Mine has a huge vegetable garden, an even larger wine cellar, free-range chickens, board games, books and Wi-Fi. Of course, Wi-Fi.)
Offill captures both the earnestness in anxiety and the ridiculousness of this current state of perpetual worry we worry-filled people reside in. She also nails the realities of caring for someone who can’t seem to help themselves. Lizzie’s the lifeboat to which her brother clings, and that vessel is taking on water. Worse still, she knows it and cannot help but just pick up a pail and keep on bailing the water out.
Wonderfully written, and highly recommended. And if you’re at all concerned with reading something that amps up the anxiety dial to 11, Offill includes a helpful resource at the end of the novel. Because action, especially obligatory notes of hope, often keeps dread at bay.