I debated whether or not to post a review of Today Will be Different, because I feel very conflicted about it. It’s hard to write a review when you’re not sure if your own mind is made up about a book.
Here’s the thing of it: I don’t think this is a great novel. But I also devoured it, and enjoyed the time I spent reading it. And then I felt let down by it after I finished. I’m not sure how to reconcile those mixed feelings.
I read it in less than 24 hours, during a weekend in September when Graham and I both had the stomach flu. We pulled out the couch into a sofa bed and pretty much just loafed about feeling sick and sorry for ourselves the entire weekend, which might have been the perfect state of mind to read this novel.
It’s the story of a day in the life of Eleanor Flood. We meet her in the morning, when she’s made the resolution to make today different. The opening paragraph outlining her resolutions for the day feels like the epitome of a Bridget Jones-esque every woman:
Today will be different. Today I will be present. Today, anyone I’m speaking 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 only change into yoga clothes 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.
What follows is the account of her day, paired with flashbacks that describe how she got to her present state of daily struggle with each of these resolutions. It’s entertaining at time, unbelievable at other times, and sometimes hard to get past the complete self absorption of our narrator.
But I think what it comes down to is that Maria Semple’s wonderful style and voice powered me through this one, even though the story and characters left a lot to be desired. The uniqueness and wit that made Where’d You Go, Bernadette feel fresh and exciting fell a bit flat in this one, and the characters seemed to be trying a bit too hard to be quirky. But I think it’s likely that fans of Maria Semple will still find some enjoyment in the ride.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.