LitStack Review: No One Could Have Guessed the Weather by Anne-Marie Casey

No One Could Have Guessed the Weather
Anne-Marie CaseyNo One Could Have Guessed
Amy Einhorn Books
First Edition: June 13, 2013
ISBN 978-0399160219

When asked to name a social network, most people would probably say Facebook, Twitter or  perhaps reddit.  A few may even mention MySpace or Google+.  Right now, when I think “social network,” I think of Anne-Marie Casey‘s new novel, No One Could Have Guessed the Weather.

It starts out with Lucy; we meet her first.  At the onset, she’s not really a very sympathetic character, being one of those privileged women who exist quite contentedly in their own secure, little, centric world.  Except Lucy’s world has just fallen apart – her husband, Richard, has lost his job and in an attempt to get back on his feet before she found out, has ended up virtually losing everything they had built up – but her whininess is more pathetic than pitiful.

The Mothers at the School shrieked divorce.  She listened in desperate hope.  She knew that the divorcees among their number had ended up with white stucco four-bedrooms, child support, and in one case a lump-sum payment for loss of earnings.  She figured this could assuage a lot of emotional pain.  But when she looked at the business sections of the newspapers it appeared there had indeed been some kind of global collapse in the financial markets and, although she had indeed abandoned the dreary, ill-paid job that bored her to spend the past nine years supervising the Nanny and the Housekeeper and the Children, she had enough brain cells left to know this might not entitle her to much of what remained when nearly everything had gone.

However, author Casey manages to find the deadpan and self-deprecating humor in even the most banal attitude, and eventually Lucy becomes a little less clueless and a little more sympathetic – and interesting.  When she has to fly back to England (from New York, where they were forced to relocate when her husband grasped at the only option left to him – a low level management job with his firm’s New York office) for a family emergency, the kindness of a new and as of yet unknown neighbor pries Lucy’s fingers from off her eyes, and, with a fresh look at where she had been and a need to defend her current situation, a new phase in her life begins.  It’s a marvelous thing to watch.

No One Could Have Guessed the Weather is full of fantastic, quip-ish writing, self-centered and self-derisive in equal parts, but often unguarded and always pretty darned honest.  It’s a scrapbook of a year or so in the lives of a group of loosely connected women living in New York City – and that’s a huge part of it, living in New York City – but it’s also got quite a few snapshots that we recognize in our own lives, even if the backgrounds are different.

Along with Lucy, there is Julia, the recently-separated wife of Richard’s “Father Friend”, Kristian (with a K).  She is one of the Mothers waiting to pick up kids at the school gate (even though her kids live with their father), and is both a successful screen writer and the producer of a prime-time TV series, and has – according to Kristian (with a K) – “the ‘chip of ice’ all creative people need, a coldness in their nature that allows them to use anything and anyone as material.”  (Never mind that he means “sliver of ice”, which Lucy notes but doesn’t point out.)

Before she could whether this was factual or disloyal, she remembered that last Friday she had seen such an apparition marching up and down a corridor, shouting, “How long is it since we butchered a pregnant woman with a meat cleaver?” into her phone, oblivious to a clustered group of mothers swapping vegetarian curry recipes as their children hit one another with macramé snakes.

Alarming out-of-context statements and wild gesticulations notwithstanding, Julia ends up being the person that tends to draw all the others together.  She definitely collects interesting personalities and experiences, but finding out whether that’s because of an iciness or an openness is part of the fun of reading this book.

Then there’s Christy, the trophy wife of a very wealthy man 30 years her senior, who considers Julia her best friend.  Christy is the mother of 6 year old twins (conceived IVF), but is also somewhat naive and just a touch clueless.

Three pregnancies later, the twins were efficiently removed by caesarean section and Christy never went back to the New School.  But she could not quite pinpoint what she had been doing since then.  In fact, her life was just like her faulty Toyota Prius.  At about age twenty-one she had put her foot on the accelerator, it jammed,  and when it stopped, she was a forty-four-year-old woman wondering where it had gone.

Christy is also the legal stepmother to Lianne, an emotionally stunted (and  spoiled) daughter from her husband’s first (failed) marriage; Lianne is only 4 years younger than Christy, and is very resentful of that lack of age difference, along with being obnoxious – which is, perhaps, understandable, since she has been given everything she wants (and little of what she needs).

There also is Robyn, who’s always angry and is nobody’s best friend but is still one of the Mothers at the school gate waiting for her children, so she’s always standing around being… angry.  She works long hours as an office manager of a budget bed shop selling mattresses and she’s always stressed, always tired.  She supports her children and her writer husband (re: deadbeat) in a job that she doesn’t particularly enjoy and that she resents greatly, and she’s not exactly sophisticated, beautiful or graceful.

Robyn was disappointed, that was obvious, but in her life she had been disappointed by many things far more important that the PTA raffle.  As a teenager, Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen” was her favorite song.

It could be said that No One Could Have Guessed the Weather, with its strong female characters and a backdrop of New York City is somewhat like “Sex in the City” but without the pink tutus and sex-sate-ionalism; without the capitals and with kids.  And these ladies don’t lunch, but they do go to all the school functions and meet on many of the school committees.  Some of them have money, some of them had money, some of them have never had much of it, but they all are forced to connect somehow – through coercion or circumstance – and that continuing connection is the touchstone of their relationships.

No One Could Have Guessed the Weather is a terrific read if you enjoy books about people rather than actions; it’s more akin to a  lovely afternoon of tubing down a fast moving river rather than the adrenaline rush of riding the white water rapids.  It would be wrong to consider this novel tame, however; at times, it has very sharp claws. Full of erudite humor with a streak of sentimentality that would never be considered appropriate for a Hallmark card, and lacking any fear of expressing the dark thoughts and hurtful tendencies with which we all struggle, it is intensely entertaining on a very human level.

It almost feels as if after reading this book, you could follow Julia’s Facebook page and notice a certain number of mutual friends, or enjoy how she retweets Lucy’s ever so pithy – and grammatically correct – observations.  These ladies do feel that real.  No One Could Have Guessed the Weather may not be the story of our lives – yours and mine – but it certainly reverberates with an authenticity that any of us can recognize and to which all of us can relate, and it brings to life wonderful characters that will remain long after the final page of the book has been turned.

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