I loved Maria Semple’s last book Where’d You Go Bernadette, so I was excited to pick up her follow-up novel, Today Will Be Different. It also takes place in Seattle (Semple’s hometown), and once again the protagonist Eleanor Flood is a wacky, stressed-out mom who regales the reader with hilarious insights into the world around her. Is this very similar to Bernadette? Yes, in some ways. Although surprisingly Eleanor has a stable marriage, a lovely child, and a successful career that is (mostly) behind her. So, her stress and discomfort with her current life is a bit strange because it seems like she’s quite lucky, which is a fact I imagine would bother many readers. But I’m a middle class white woman, so although her problems are first world problems at their finest, I still enjoyed reading about them, mainly because Semple is a really funny writer and very relatable.
Eleanor as narrator is why I enjoyed this book. Her musings about her aging appearance, her exhaustion around having a young child and her attempts to be an overall better person (i.e. buying local, eating lunch with people she doesn’t like) are things that seem ridiculous at the outset, but they consume so much of our thoughts that it was easy to relate to. Her snarky attitude is something I really liked as well-and the fact that she does naughty things, like steal a key chain from a young mom that irritates her.
There is a really unique aspect to this book, and that is the 10 pages or so that depict a graphic novel within the novel called “The Flood Sisters” that Eleanor drew years ago. It’s a bit strange looking, but very sentimental because it’s about her childhood with her sister, her famous actress mother who died of cancer, and their remaining life with their father who turns out to be a bit of a deadbeat. The inclusion of this is a bit random, and it develops into an even more random tangent that Semple leads us on to explain why Eleanor and her sister haven’t spoken in years. Again, this may bother some people, but I didn’t find it very disruptive because I was invested in this part of Eleanor’s story too.
The majority of the story follows Eleanor around on one day, and many of the situations she finds herself in are unbelievable, venturing into slapstick comedy. For example she gets knocked down by a giant art sculpture in front of an old employee that she detested, who has since turned into a very famous artist. This is just minutes after a quick trip into Costco where she spies her poetry teacher working at a beloved samples station. I’m aware that this doesn’t sound like a funny book at all when I describe it, but trust me, Semple knows what she’s doing, and my day with Eleanor is one I won’t soon forget.
Sounds like fun, and I don’t see why 1st World people shouldn’t write books about their problems – they may not be life and death matters, but they’re still real! I hope the girl got her pony back… 😉
I loved Bernadette for the wacky humor and this one sounds just as good.
totally! It’s similar to Bernadette in alot of ways, the humour especially
I never read the Bernadette book; is it the same character continuing with life, or are they similar in time/content? I think this book sounds like it would appeal to older millennials who are struggling with “adulting,” so all small issues seem like catastrophes. We all need to see ourselves reflected in fiction, so this book would likely annoy different generations. I definitely see what you’re saying.
they are different characters definitely, but they have similar first world problems. And you’re right about the difficulties with adulting 🙂
I have the Bernadette book on my shelf to read soon because I have read such great things about it. I will now have to add this one too. These books sound funny which is something I don’t find in books very often.
this book is DEFINITELY funny.
I enjoyed Bernadette – and do intend to read this one. Glad to know you found it so enjoyable! The teacher at Costco situation does sound funny to me!
I enjoyed this book too, I really liked the character of Eleanor and the strangeness of this book. I can see why she might annoy people, but I definitely relate to the socially awkward. And even people who have it all don’t necessarily feel like their life is perfect.
agreed-I love reading about everyone’s problems because it puts my own in perspective-even if that person ‘has it all’ 🙂