In her follow up to Dept. of Speculation, Offill's narrator dwells on climate change, pollution, toxic politics surrounding the 2016 election, rich people and their “doomsteads,” working-class preppers, and disaster psychology in addition to the relentless everyday clamor and madness.
Offill takes subjects that could easily become pedantic and makes them thrilling and hilarious and terrifying and alive by letting her characters live on these multiple scales at once, as we all do ... fragmented structure composed of short bursts of mundane intensity that make me think of Dalí’s animal sketches, in which a few spare ink strokes evoke the essence of each beast ... Offill’s writing is shrewd on the question of whether intense psychic suffering heightens your awareness of the pain of others, or makes you blind to it ... part of the brilliance of Offill’s fiction is how it pushes back against this self-deception ... If I responded more strongly to Dept. of Speculation than to Weather, it might be a testament to the narrative dilemma the new novel is reckoning with: the scale of its ambition, despite its brevity, in its attempt to tell a story about climate change that carries the same visceral force as our private emotional dramas — that is, in fact, inseparable from them ... Offill’s whittled narrative bursts are apt vessels for the daily experience of scale-shifting they document — the vertigo of moving between the claustrophobia of domestic discontent and the impossibly vast horizon of global catastrophe ... something like an inverted X-ray: a narrative that illuminates not the obvious bones of the story but its unexpected details; not the bold lines of your femurs but the detritus in your pockets — the crumpled receipts, the pacifier dropped on the sidewalk, the key whose lock you can’t remember ... Offill’s fragmentary structure evokes an unbearable emotional intensity: something at the core of the story that cannot be narrated directly, by straight chronology, because to do so would be like looking at the sun.
... tiny in size and immense in scope, radically disorienting yet reassuringly humane, strikingly eccentric and completely irresistible ... A narrator and a novel that hum with anxiety and pulse with dread are nonetheless hilarious, warm, and lovable. Both ruefully mordant and strangely consoling, Weather is at once brutal in its unsparing honesty and utterly exhilarating in its wit and intelligence. It radiates with the beleaguered yet buoyant optimism, the luminous integrity, of a supple and fearless writer.
The novel’s pacing sometimes teases us into concluding it plotless, and Offill threatens to relegate Lizzie to stock-character status—a figurine in some toy rendition of the white liberal world we expect to see portrayed in a particular strain of contemporary fiction. But she complicates this reading of Lizzie with her longstanding, subterranean commentary on womanhood and mothering ... the dance of Offill’s language is also on display ... Lizzie’s constant care-taking offers not only a subtle critique of gendered labor; it is also a crucial component of Weather’s narrative momentum ... The new novel’s paragraphs, too, are short and pithy—what seem at first like aphoristic standalones constellate into some larger meaning. Reading Weather is a constant process of revelation: the 'point' of any one vignette isn’t always clear, at least not until many pages later, when another paragraph provides some telling detail, winking back to the first ... Ultimately, though, Weather neither casts judgment nor parades as some grand call to action. It articulates instead collective anguish for a sick planet and situates this preemptive mourning within the larger matrix of systemic issues ... Indeed, Weather’s own lack of resolve serves to illuminate the importance of sitting with these emotions, suggesting that they might be confronted communally.