Carol Anshaw (Carry the One) crafts a masterpiece of characterization and pacing with Right After the Weather, a novel of surprises. Cate, a set designer in Chicago, is a bit bumbling and hapless, but charming. A cast of similarly weird, struggling but lovable friends surrounds her. Her ex-husband, Graham, has moved in following his latest divorce, with a perfectly wonderful dog and with all his conspiracy theories, agoraphobia, fancy mail-order meals and "hemp and unbleached cotton, drawstring closures." Her best friend Neale is a comfort, with her wholesome do-it-yourself skills and dear son. Cate's new girlfriend, Maureen, appears to be just what she's been looking for--financially secure, "encyclopedic in matters of fixing things"--but there's something a bit off. Cate's former lover Dana is the opposite: the wrong thing, but entirely, overwhelmingly magnetic. Cate's and Neale's parents are each complicated and intriguing on their own.
Anshaw weaves a delightful tapestry, often laugh-out-loud hilarious, as Cate and the rest fumble through their lives. Halfway through the story, however, the tone changes abruptly when trauma strikes, and Cate must learn to navigate a new version of herself. Right After the Weather is smart and filled with the sort of evocative details Cate infuses into the sets she designs. It is compelling: once invested, the reader is hard pressed to turn away (so schedule a free evening for this one!). And it is populated by charisma and natural stars. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia