Blowing smoke

  • Elizabeth Kathryn Berry

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (MFA)


A novel fully contained in eight chapters, Blowing Smoke tells the story of Grace, who is home for the summer between her first and second year studying Environmental Science at a state university in California. Grace is struggling with a transitional period in her life: her parents are recently divorced and her father is getting remarried, she is experiencing heartbreak for the first time, her younger sister is rebellious and has potential substance abuse issues, and her mother is distant and has an eating disorder.

Through the summer, Grace grapples with her sexuality, spends time with her sister, and prepares for a fated week as a freshman orientation leader. Despite the devastation she has seen in the world, between the way her father treated their family and what she knows about the ugly state of the environment, she wonders if she can or should move past what she’s experienced and lead a happy life.

Blowing Smoke’s chapter titles are taken from the United Nations’ list of Causes and Effects of Climate Change. In addition to highlighting the story’s backdrop of California’s degrading natural environment, the table of contents mimics an Environmental Science textbook much like the ones Grace uses in the college courses which haunt her.

The circumstances of the world Grace grows up in mean that her relationship with the environment and its health is not always linear. Just as often as she experiences grief, hurt, anxiety, and paranoia in tandem with the planet, she experiences joy, euphoria, and power in the wake of environmental destruction. Though Grace’s inner world, Blowing Smoke examines the increasingly fraught relationship between the health of our climate and personal gain or comfort. Her journey through June, July, and August illustrates the uniquely confusing experience of coming of age on a dying planet.
Date of Award28 Nov 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorOliver Roy Hazzard (Supervisor)


  • Environmental fiction
  • Coming-of-age
  • LGBTQ+
  • California
  • Climate change

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 19 July 2028

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