Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
Adult – Contemporary
Published October 4th 2016 by Little, Brown and Company
This is definitely the book I needed to get me out of my reading rut. It was witty and smart and just all around fun. Plus it helps that on the scale of Maria Semple books, I thought it was closer to Where’d You Go Bernadette in spirit versus This One is Mine, which I couldn’t even finish.
Eleanor is a self-declared mess. As an adult she should be better at the whole “adulting” thing, but she just can’t. The day she finally decides to get her life together and put effort into the little things (shower, do yoga, initiate sex with her husband, and won’t swear). It also happens to be the day that her son Timby (the iphone autocorrected Timothy and they just went with it) fakes sick from school and her husband fakes a vacation at the office, but doesn’t tell Eleanor where he is. To further the coincidences, it is also the day she runs into an old colleague she fired because she didn’t think his art was good enough (she’s a graphic designer and he’s now way more famous). This brings up the graphic memoir Eleanor is supposed to be working on for her agent and the family story Timby knows nothing about…hilarity then ensues.
I read this almost a week ago to cure my election-hangover and I still don’t know how to put my thoughts into words. There were funny parts and it had that familiar feeling but there were no laugh-out-loud hilarious scenes and I didn’t care as much about the family dynamics as I think I was meant to.There are funny parts, such as Timby downloading a concussion app to check Eleanor and it ends up just asking random questions at random times to test her alertness. There were also some heartfelt parts but by the end of it I wished some more of her issues had been resolved, particularly with her family member that I won’t talk about because spoilers. I thought every flashback was going to lead somewhere in the present and it never did other than to further explain her, which I guess I just didn’t need.
Eleanor has a lot in common with Bernadette which was a plus and minus for me. She’s a woman living in seattle, which she hates because it stunts her creativity, with her successful husband and precocious child. Her sanity starts to falter as she experience so many mini-crises that she no longer can react or care. One scene that made me laugh a ton and had to do with this is when she falls in the museum and just decides to not get back up. People are rushing around her concerned that she’s had a concussion or is paralyzed because she won’t move and she tells her son she’s simply choosing not to get up at the moment but she’ll be okay. The minus is that that the entire time I was reading it and relating it to Bernadette in my mind so it always just seemed less. It’s an eccentric story about a family disappearance that ended in a way that was more sharp than funny
“Today will be different. Today I will be present. Today, anyone I speak to, I will look them in the eye and listen deeply. Today I’ll play a board game with Timby. I’ll initiate sex with Joe. Today I will take pride in my appearance. I’ll shower, get dressed in proper clothes, and change into yoga clothes only for yoga, which today I will actually attend. Today I won’t swear. I won’t talk about money. Today there will be an ease about me. My face will be relaxed, its resting place a smile. Today I will radiate calm. Kindness and self-control will abound. Today I will buy local. Today I will be my best self, the person I’m capable of being. Today will be different.”
“Actually, I bite the Milk Duds into four pieces and spit them back into the popcorn so they’re smaller, giving me a better popcorn-to-Milk-Dud ratio. Yes, they’re covered in saliva, but it’s my saliva. Though I can see how, to someone reaching into the popcorn he said he wasn’t going to eat, it could be an issue.”
Overall, I was glad I read Today Will Be Different. It was fun, not entirely different from Semple’s other work, but I was okay with that. It was a book that made me happy when I was reading it… but Where’d You Go, Bernadette remains my favorite by far and I’m pretty sure I won’t be the only one to feel that way.