This year I am very excited to finally be taking part in Cannonball Bingo. Today Will Be Different is filling out the “Shelfie” square as a book from my bookshelf (one that sat on my shelf for way too long before I finally got around to reading it).
I am lucky enough to have a friend who gets tickets to a Pen and Podium lecture series. She has invited me to a few literary lectures from visiting authors. So far, the lectures have all been very interesting. But what’s even better is we get access to a meet and greet backstage with the author. Not only are there snacks, but we are also given a copy of the author’s latest book. The authors have all been great, and despite my natural awkwardness with strangers I admire, I love meeting the authors and hearing what they have to say. One of these authors was Maria Semple. I’d already read and enjoyed Where’d You Go, Bernadette, so I was looking forward to hearing her speak. Even better, I was given a copy of, Today Will Be Different (2016)–one of Semple’s books that I hadn’t yet read.
Unfortunately, I have a hard time reading hard cover books that I own. I’m getting so many Kindle books from my library that books with no return deadline are forgotten. Sadly, Today Will Be Different sat on my shelf for way too long.
Once I finally began reading, I was immediately drawn in by the opening paragraph:
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.
I always have lofty personal and life goals that never live up to my expectations, so the above paragraph spoke to me deeply. I also enjoyed the self-deprecatory wit. Right away, I was looking forward to reading the rest of the book. In the end, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as Where’d You Go Bernadette, but it kept my attention and interest. There were some well-drawn, original characters and some very funny situations and dialogue. However, I sometimes couldn’t relate much to Eleanor or some of her story.
Eleanor Flood is a happily married woman (husband Joe) with a 9-year-old son (Timby) and a dog (Yo-Yo). The book follows Eleanor for one rather chaotic day. There are also some flashbacks that provide backstory and insight into her character. As we learn more about her family and dreams, her actions become more understandable. There’s also a bit of a mystery element as Eleanor hunts to find a truth about her husband.
Eleanor first has to pick up her son from school when he has a stomachache. She freaks out at school for unexplained reasons, and then discovers that her husband has been lying to her. Eleanor assumes that her husband is cheating on her, and the rest of the day is Eleanor’s quest to find her husband and discover the truth. She does this with Timby and her dog in tow.
Among some genuinely funny moments, there were a number of things I had a hard time understanding. First, Eleanor has a friend that she doesn’t really like. But instead of delicately extricating herself from an unsatisfying friendship, Eleanor is really mean to her. When the friend goes out of her way to help Eleanor after she gets a head injury, Eleanor sneaks away without any explanation. I think the book was trying to make this scene funny, but it just made me not like Eleanor.
Also, Eleanor leaves her dog at Costco for an entire day, only to come back and find him in the dark after the store is closed. It didn’t bother me at the time because I had just assumed that Eleanor had taken her dog with her–even though the story didn’t explicitly state this. When Eleanor later realizes that she’d left her dog in the Costco parking lot for an entire day, I had a very hard time believing that someone wouldn’t have called animal services or taken the dog home. I also couldn’t imagine someone who would leave their dog like that.
I thought Eleanor’s relationship with her sister and the very dysfunctional relationship between Eleanor’s sister and brother-in-law was very good. Not only did it somewhat explain Eleanor’s behavior, but the characters were fantastically flawed, crazy, and frustrating but still felt real.
I enjoyed this book on the whole, even though I had some problems with it. I really enjoyed meeting the author, and I’m impressed by Semple’s writing. If you are new to Semple, I would recommend reading Where’d You Go, Bernadette first.
You can find all of my reviews on my blog.