Book Review: Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
Published October 2016
Little, Brown and Company
In the course of one action-packed day, wackadoo Eleanor uncovers her husband’s secret life.
I loved Maria Semple’s other book, Where’d You Go, Bernadette. It was off-center, full of unconventional characters, and wacky.
Today Will Be Different is no different.
I recently wrote about how Shari Lapena’s A Stranger in the House borrows the themes of her first novel so that it reads like The Couple Next Door 2.0. Today Will Be Different takes it even a step further, practically Single White Femaling Where’d You Go, Bernadette.
Almost every aspect of Semple’s two books are identical. Both feature wacky but loveable 50 year old women as their main characters. Time is plentiful for them since they don’t work and each only have one school-aged, charmingly precocious child to care for, but still they manage to act constantly harried. They have brilliant and wealthy husbands, with happy marriages that are now in peril.
The women in both books suddenly find their lives at a crossroads. Will their marriages survive? How will they get through their existential and identity crises? Will their husbands run off and leave them destitute, no longer bankrolling their wacky absentmindedness?
Both women have embarrassing public breakdowns. They’re unselfconscious about flinging their emotions and outbursts at the nearest recipient. The books both even have a breakthrough moment of revelation during a song.
Here’s the breakpoint between the two:
Eleanor’s outburst in Today Will Be Different just seems spoiled and self-indulgent. I won’t spoil the book, but don’t understand why she feels that level of betrayal and indignation.
What’s odd is that what I loved in Bernadette feels cheaper in Today Will Be Different. Maybe it’s because I adored Bernadette so much. Had I read this one without first reading Bernadette, it no doubt would have been much more charming.
I’ll happily come back for more Maria Semple. It’s rare that we get intelligent, messy women who are still at their primes at 50. I just hope her next effort will take this title’s advice and be different.