Fans of Maria Semple’s previous novel, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, will not be disappointed by her new offering. Today Will Be Different has all the wackiness, sentimentality, family love, and Seattle adoration that Bernadette brought without feeling like Semple treads ground already covered. (Though readers may find some of it familiar.)
Eleanor is our eccentric and likeable and sometimes confusingly motivated narrator. She’s middle-aged, married to super surgeon Joe, and mom to Timby. And she’s tired. But today will be different. Eleanor is brilliant in her own right – the former superstar animator of a cult TV show called Looper Girls – but she’s drifted in recent years, overdue on the graphic novel she was supposed to write and sure she’s not doing her best by any of those around her.
The main plot of the novel follows Eleanor through the course of a single day. The day she swears will be different. And it is. Because Eleanor discovers that her husband hasn’t gone to work in a week and told his office (but not his wife) that he was on vacation. Here is where Eleanor varies from the average (reasonable) human being as she treks through Seattle – Timby in tow – trying to to figure out what her husband is up to.
In amidst Eleanor’s frantic day, we also get a third person narrator look back at her younger years. Her time at Looper Girls, her childhood, her relationship with her sister, and how all of this has brought her to where she is today. (And maybe Joe to where he is.) Semple strikes a good balance here between the past and the present and lets the reader’s sympathy for Eleanor grow, even while we might still think she’s crazy. A highlight is also the illustrated pages of Eleanor’s never-finished graphic novel based on her own childhood. I love when author’s include these types of visual aspects when they have a character who is so visual.
Today Will Be Different is released this October. It’s not a long read (I finished it in a couple of days) but it’ll make for a fun one.