The New Title Tuesday recommendation, Maria Semple’s Today Will Be Different, is laugh-out-loud funny and lives up to the standard she established in her most recent run-away bestseller, Where’d You Go Bernadette?
Summary: Eleanor knows she’s a mess. But today, she will tackle the little things. She will shower and get dressed. She will have her poetry and yoga lessons after dropping off her son, Timby. She won’t swear. She will initiate sex with her husband, Joe. But before she can put her modest plan into action-life happens. Today, it turns out, is the day Timby has decided to fake sick to weasel his way into his mother’s company. It’s also the day Joe has chosen to tell his office-but not Eleanor-that he’s on vacation. Just when it seems like things can’t go more awry, an encounter with a former colleague produces a graphic memoir whose dramatic tale threatens to reveal a buried family secret.
The premise of the novel is to accompany the main character through one day as she strives to let the mantra guide her through one day of radiating calm and serenity.
I have to believe that I’m not the only one who finds themselves in Semple’s exposition:
The sad truth? The beast in me plays out on a painfully small scale: regrettable micro-transactions usually involving Timby, my friends, or Joe. I’m irritable and consumed by anxiety when I’m with them; maudlin and shit-talking when I’m not. Ha! Aren’t you glad you’re at a safe distance, doors locked, windows rolled up? Aw, come on. I’m nice. I’m exaggerating for effect. It’s not really like that.
As Los Angeles Times reviewer Maris Kreizman asks, “If humor is the ultimate defense mechanism, how can Eleanor re-train herself to believe that her world isn’t always on the verge of collapse? Some yoga and smiling and a good mantra (see the book’s title) are nice starts but not quite enough to change a world view. Still, it’s a joy to watch Eleanor struggle to change for the better. That we get to laugh along with her is an added bonus.”
Balancing humor with everyday anxiety is not beginner’s luck with Semple. She made a name for herself writing for sitcoms such as Mad About You, Arrested Development, and Suddenly Susan. But in Today Will be Different, Semple has less satire and runs a bit deeper than Where’d You Go Bernadette? That does not make it any less funny.
Happy Reading, Susan C.
Also by Maria Semple:
Where’d You Go Bernadette To her Microsoft-guru husband, Bernadette is a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect; and to 15-year-old Bee, she’s a best friend and, simply, Mom. Bee has aced her report card and claimed her reward: a family trip to Antarctica. For Bernadette, who has become increasingly agoraphobic, such a trip is problematic. Then Bernadette disappears.
This One is Mine Violet Parry is living the quintessential life of luxury in the Hollywood Hills with David, her rock-and-roll manager husband, and her darling toddler, Dot. She has the perfect life–except that she’s deeply unhappy. David expects the world of Violet but gives little of himself in return. When she meets Teddy, a roguish small-time bass player, Violet comes alive, and soon she’s risking everything for the chance to find herself again.