Today Will Be Different - Maria Semple

It is 100% completely unfair to compare this book with Semple's previous novel, Where’d You Go, Bernadette -- but, man -- it's hard not to. The protagonists, their lifestyles, their problems, their families, their children's schools, their problems, what got them to Seattle and the career's they left behind -- they all beg comparison. But I'm going to try not to -- and it'll be to Today's benefit if I can pull that off.


Here's the problem with the book -- well, the main one -- it's there in the title, Today. It takes place over a day, no real change, no real resolution, no real anything can happen in a day. You can resolve to make changes, you can take steps towards anything happening. But real lasting whatever takes time. Not that you can't have a good novel in that time frame, but not this kind of novel.


The pluses? The storyline about Eleanor's sister -- there were so many ways this could've gone wrong, become cliché, or turned into a mere punchline. It's uncomfortable, it's troubling, and it's real. Eleanor's kid, Timby was interesting and I enjoyed his relationship with her ex-colleague. Most of all, it's the voice. Eleanor's voice is strong, it's developed, it's clear, and there's a confidence to her (while realizing she's a giant mess).


But that ending? I could write pages about how bad it was. In the end, while reading Today Will be Different, I had a blast and was hooked throughout -- it was funny, tragic, thoughtful, painful. But the instant that I closed the book, all I could think of was how many things I didn't like and problems I had with the story. It's not just because Eleanor's story was different from Bernadette's -- I was relieved, by that -- but that this one didn't deliver what it could have.