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Today Will Be Different Paperback – June 27, 2017
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An Amazon Best Book of October 2016: Maria Semple returns to the Seattle of her previous novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, this time with the protagonist Eleanor Flood, a status-conscious transplant who vows on page one that Today will be different. Spoiler alert: not really... at least not in the way that she thinks. Semple’s greatest asset as a writer is her charm, and her many fans—myself included—would gladly follow her wherever she will lead us. Semple’s spot-on eye for the telling, quirky detail and her sense of humor are enough to carry a novel, but in Today Will Be Different she introduces a few weightier strands to the story that could signal more depth to come in future novels. It’s fun to read Maria Semple’s books, and it’s fun to imagine where she’ll take us next. --Chris Schluep, The Amazon Book Review --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
"Another tour de force.... The success of this poetic, seriously funny and brainy dream of a novel -- 'Mrs. Dalloway Takes Laughing Gas,' perhaps -- has to do with Maria Semple's range of riffs and preoccupations. All kinds of details, painful and perverse and deeply droll, cling to her heroine and are appraised and examined and skewered and simply wondered at. If that's considered a trick, readers of Semple's novel will be overjoyed to fall for it."--Meg Wolitzer, New York Times Book Review
"Writing a comedy novel that manages to connect emotionally is no easy task, but Semple knocks it out of the park. TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT is hilarious, moving and written perfectly, and it makes a good case for Semple as one of America's best living comic novelists."--Michael Schaub, NPR.org
"Readers who devoured Where'd You Go, Bernadette will love Eleanor [Flood]'s wry voice and dark humor."--Kim Hubbard, People
"Loopy, deeply and darkly funny, and brave.... Semple is a master of the social skewer, boldly impolite and impolitic.... Eleanor is as sharp and Semple-esque as they come, which is to say a delightful danger to herself and others, sympathetic, and so very smart."--Elinor Lipman, Washington Post
"A little bit wacky and always wise, and we recognize people we know--including ourselves--on every page."--Elisabeth Egan, Glamour
"Outrageously funny. But [TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT] cuts closer to the bone than Bernadette did, and its main character's problems feel more real.... Ms. Semple is an immensely appealing writer, and there's something universal in her heroine's efforts to get a handle on a life spinning out of control. We may not all have long-lost sisters who live in the most crazily status-obsessed corners of the South, but we surely know what she means about waking up each dawn with new resolve that melts by midmorning."--Janet Maslin, New York Times
"Semple brilliantly conveys a whole array of angst -- self-deprecation and existential dread and a panic attack of neuroses -- while simultaneously packing in a liberal dose of levity.... 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."--Maris Kreizman, Los Angeles Times
"Deliciously mucky mayhem."--San Francisco Chronicle
"A vivid, hilarious, remarkably compact book--271 pages' worth of crisp observations and occasionally too-close-to-home truths about modern relationships. And it's anchored by a gorgeous scrapbook-slash-mini-graphic novel."--Brian Raftery, Wired
"Quirky and blade-sharp."--Tina Jordan and Isabella Biedenharn, Entertainment Weekly
"Wickedly funny.... Semple's trademark dark humor and knack for creating a page-turning story out of socially awkward interactions will make this one you can't put down--and won't want to."--Adam Rathe, Town and Country
"A zesty, memorable novel."--Suzy Feay, Guardian
"Brisk, amusing and engaging, and Semple is a champion observer of the human condition."--Connie Ogle, Miami Herald
"TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT is so unique, so smart, so funny, so beautifully humane, so utterly of our times, it's astonishing. I've scribbled exclamation points and underlined passages on almost every single page so I can go back and savor. I've started quoting it as if it's already a classic--which, no doubt, it will be."--Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl and Dark Places
"Written with Semple's hilarity-cum-sincerity, Eleanor grapples with the past to reconcile her future and makes readers smile."--Steph Opitz, Marie Claire
"Crackling with honesty and heart."--Jarry Lee, BuzzFeed
"TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT starts off as a funny, rant-y novel and becomes, by its end, an unexpectedly heartfelt exploration of a woman's inner life. (And yes, it's still funny.)"--Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times
"Fans of Bernadette will recognize Semple's propulsive and satirical dialogue."--Trine Tsouderos, Chicago Tribune
"TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT is a sublimely funny and inventive novel driven by Maria Semple's razor-sharp observations and a voice that leaps from the page."--Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins
"Consistently funny.... The heart of this book, the parts Semple wraps the best language around, is Eleanor's fear of her chosen family's rejection. Her aging body makes her feel inadequate, and she uses buckets of hilarious, fresh-seeming self-deprecatory language about that. The absurd lengths she goes to and the level of creativity she employs to seek out her husband's secret are the funniest, most moving parts of the book. In these moments, Semple's humor is tight and self-aware. Her scene-setting abilities amaze."--Rich Smith, The Stranger
"Hilarious and smart."--Claire Stern, InStyle
"A second dose of [Semple's] madcap genius."--Tiffany Blackstone, Redbook
"Semple has mastered the intersection of sad and nuts like no one else.... Like a cross between Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, the best episides of Bob's Burgers, and the private journal of the smartest, most irritable woman you know, TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT is a reckless and scattershot work of genius."―Heather Havrilesky, Bookforum
"Peppered with unforgettable one liners, laugh-out-loud funny observations, and plenty of those little truths we all think to ourselves but never say out loud. Eleanor's outlook on life, her internal dialogue and the conversations she carries out with others -- all brought to life on the page through Semple's whip smart writing -- will have you blinking back tears."--Sadie L. Trombetta, Bustle
"Whipsmart, dazzling, darkly comic and deeply touching. I loved it!"--Marian Keyes, author of The Brightest Star in the Sky and This Charming Man
"Equal parts smart and funny."--Jenny Comita, W
"A smart, laugh-out-loud funny, and thoughtful novel about how we reinvent ourselves and how we need to face the truth about our lives before we can truly change."--Brenda Janowitz, PopSugar
"Bittersweet, hilarious, perceptive."--The Millions
"Where'd You Go, Bernadette had a madcap vibe and a 'bad mother' protagonist that captivated readers. TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT has the same snappy dialogue, zippy adventures and inside jokes about the Seattle scene."--Meganne Fabrega, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Semple is second to none in humorous fiction. Her heroines are deeply flawed but totally relatable, and Eleanor is no exception. TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT is filled with transcendent moments of humanity, reminders that while we all can aspire to improve, sometimes it's OK to just appreciate what is already in front of us."--Amy Scribner, BookPage
"'Today will be different,' Eleanor Flood tells herself, and oh baby hang on for a wild ride that's like nothing Eleanor sees coming. In this brilliant depiction of a woman hanging on by her fingernails, Maria Semple delivers a perfect panic of a day on which the barely tolerable, muddle-through-it desperation that so many of us have known at one time or another suddenly erupts with life-shattering force. Can an existential crisis make us laugh? Such is Semple's talent that this one does, without losing any of the punch or gravity of the hardest kinds of lived experience."--Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
"TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT is going to delight the many, many fans of Where'd You Go, Bernadette."--Michael Merschel, Dallas Morning News
"Hilarious [and] heart-warming."--Dana Getz, Entertainment Weekly
"A stressed-out heroine resolves to change her rather plush life in this comedy, whose precious Seattle setting is as ripe a target for Semple's satire as it was in Where'd You Go, Bernadette."--Kate Tuttle, Boston Globe
"God, I love Maria Semple! TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT is just as funny, poignant, and life-affirming as Bernadette... but illustrated too!"--Nina Stibbe, author of Love, Nina and Paradise Lodge
"Fans of Where'd You Go, Bernadette will eat up Semple's entertaining new novel about a graphic artist. In it, the imperfect wife and mother (is there any other kind?) vows to up her domestic game, only to have her day go badly awry."--Jane Henderson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"A precocious child, a stale marriage and plenty of clever quirk make this a story you can't put down. Expect glares from fellow passengers as you laugh out loud."--Melissa Kravitz, AM New York
"I had the uncanny feeling, while reading TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT, that Maria Semple had somehow snuck into my house when I was asleep, took an x-ray image of my heart, then painted it by hand in neon colors. This book is searingly honest and hilarious and dark and neurotic. It is dizzying. Best of all, it is delicious."--Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies
"Hilarious and touching, this will satisfy Semple's numerous fans and gain her new ones. Give this to readers of women's fiction, Seattle denizens and aspiring residents, and people reviewing their lives and choices."--Alene Moroni, Booklist
"With a strong narrative voice, fast pace and her signature wit, Semple cleverly spins another raucously funny story wound around deeper implications about the unexpected ways life teaches us to find meaning."--Kathleen Gerard, Shelf Awareness
"An introspective look, both comedic and tragic, at attempting to be the best one can be."--Stephanie Sendaula, Library Journal
"A sharp, funny read.... Consistently entertaining."--Publishers Weekly
"Few will be indifferent to this achingly funny and very dear book. This author is on her way to becoming a national treasure."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Nothing short of a masterpiece."--Sophie Flack, Boston Globe
"In her latest brainy, seriously funny novel, private school parents, a husband's secret life and more confront a Seattle woman."--Editors' Choice, New York Times Book Review
"A comedic whirlwind of lessons about life, family and facing your past."--Parade
"Filled with all the zany twists and signature humor that made Where'd You Go Bernadette a runaway hit."--Liz Loerke, Real Simple
"Think Modern Family meets 24."--The Skimm
"[A] cringe comedy of manners."--Natalie Beach, O Magazine
"The desperate housewives of Seattle.... You'll chortle into your morning cup of Starbucks."--Billy Heller, New York Post
"It's the promise of what tomorrow holds for Eleanor that makes her worth getting to know"―Shannon Carlin, Bust
"We've all had the 'day from hell,' but we can't make it as clever, fun, or whip-smart as Semple, the presiding queen of literary screwball satire."―National Book Review
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I never quite understood how old Timby (?? The story of how he got his name is ridiculous) is, but maybe I just missed it...
The writing style - going from first person, to third person in the ungodly extended flashbacks, back to first person, seemed awkward. But even more than that, I just found Eleanor unlikeable, and unrelatable (which is particularly odd because I suspect that I am roughly her age, with a similar once-amazing-now-stalled career, and mommy to an elementary-age child). I couldn't imagine myself taking ANY of the actions she takes. It just came across as forced and farcical. I wanted to badly to like this since the concept seemed great, but I just can't recommend this one.
So when I read Today Will Be Different, I understood that all my assumptions were wrong and that Semple simply cannot write a decent storyline. She is funnier than ever here -- and Eleanor Flood is a much more sympathetic character than Bernadette was, at least to me -- but again, the story races along merrily for about 75 to 100 pages, then introduces a completely new plotline that readers will not have seen coming and must struggle to care about. Without spoilers, I can only say that you can't introduce a new character this late, never really bring her to light, and then expect us to believe that the protagonist has been obsessed with her and only her for years.
And it gets worse. The sort of half-mystery plot that underpins the madcap surface action comes to fruition about 20 pages before the end of the novel -- yep! -- in a simply ridiculous, deus ex machina way. Is she kidding? Is Semple sending up the art of fiction, or something, and we're supposed to see how clever it is? Where is the heart of this novel? Is it simply the personality of Eleanor Flood, in all her mercurial pointlessness? Is it the study of a marriage? The insanity of life in Seattle right about now? Some weird treatise on parenting? (Semple's children are irritatingly precious, by the way.)
I cannot for the life of me figure out what we are supposed to concern ourselves with, and it's maddening because Semple actually writes quite well. There are priceless one-liners, my favorite being Eleanor's anxious, "Stop talking about Jesus! People will think we're poor!" There are pithy comments on the current state of living, parenting, eating, cohabiting -- all of these individually are wonderful, but they add up to considerably less than their parts. Maybe Semple should be an essayist? Some shorter media might suit her better, because the idea that 200 pages of this stuff -- with insane, and I mean OUT THERE, plot twists -- equals a novel is just wrong.
So many things cry out for the editor's pencil that you wonder if this book got any editing at all. The T-shirt with the clown and the words Meyer Mania is an interesting bit of trivia until you realize that Meyer is Semple's married name, so it's undoubtedly some kind of in-joke. The rich and endlessly accommodating husband, identical to the one in Bernadette, is nothing more than a plot device to explain why Eleanor has no money issues and all this time on her hands. The elaborate backstory, filled with excesses of one kind or another, substitutes for real character development and feeling. The relentlessly hectic, breakneck pacing keeps you flipping pages without thinking too closely about what's really going on. And the conclusion -- I cannot ask enough questions about the bizarre final 20 or so pages.
So why, you might ask at this point, did I give the novel 3 stars? Well, the writing is funny. I couldn't put the book down, frustrated though I was at it. It's almost a novelty item, a curiosity that should be read. Just don't expect to be fulfilled.
I can understand why some found it a challenge to digest this story - the author writes as quickly as she thinks, and it's a lot of chaos in one day. I'm glad I pressed on through the parts that confused me a bit - the author writes very well (I love some of her sentences and passages) and in the end everything came together, unveiling all the secrets and settling the dramas that had been building. Not the ending I envisioned, but I understood the final chapters more once I listened to the author interview on NPR.