Today Will be Different – Maria Semple

 

 

This is the story otodaydifferentf one day in the life of Eleanor Flood: cartoon artist, mother of young son, wife of prominent hand surgeon, and victim of scatter-brained, desperate personality.

At the onset of her morning, Eleanor declares:

“Today will be different. Today I will be present. Today, anyone I speak to, I will look them in the eye and listen deeply. Today I’ll play a board game with Timby. I’ll initiate sex with Joe. Today I will take pride in my appearance. I’ll shower, get dressed in proper clothes, and change into yoga clothes only for yoga, which today I will actually attend. Today I won’t swear. I won’t talk about money. Today there will be an ease about me. My face will be relaxed, its resting place a smile. Today I will radiate calm. Kindness and self-control will abound. Today I will buy local. Today I will be my best self, the person I’m capable of being. Today will be different.” 

Eleanor is just scrambling to keep it together. Today, her son Timby calls from school with yet another stomach ache, she’s afraid she’s offended her poetry mentor with flippant comments, she accidentally/ on purpose stole another mother’s keys, and she’s running late to meet a former hapless employee for lunch only to discover he’s become a huge success. Not to mention, everyone she talks with is asking about her sister, and she insists she doesn’t have one (*no spoilers here). When she drops by her husband’s office, the receptionist says he’s on vacation . . . except Joe isn’t on vacation. So what’s going on? Eleanor is going to blow like a hurricane through this day to right wrongs and discover truths, and you’re her sidekick, riding this mess with her.

One aspect I especially appreciated was her relationship with her husband, Joe. Semple nailed it, in that Joe is the perfect counter-balance to Eleanor’s anxiety. When she’s freaking out, he is the calming influence; when she loses her way, he shows her that it’s okay to feel lost. She analogizes this yin-yang as a “competent traveler” and “helpless traveler.” The difference with Eleanor, however, is that she’s beginning to realize that she’s been the helpless traveler for far too long.

I actually enjoyed the frenetic, quirky, frazzled tale of Eleanor Flood and her constant worry. The only unrelatable part, however, was that Eleanor’s life is full of Rich People Problems. Not many of us can spend our time worrying about if we’re going to make our lunch date at the upscale boutique restaurant on time after dropping off our only child at his private school in our luxury car. But, this story is also deeper than most reviewers give it credit for: there’s sibling jealousy, marital discord, and self-doubt, and all through it is humor, and that makes it all okay.

The story is insightful, comforting, and sometimes over-the-top. I enjoyed it, and the audio narration was delightful. Recommended for anyone who has forgotten Teacher Appreciation Day, or had a falling out with a friend, or who has ever questioned their career choices. In other words, everyone. All of us are part Eleanor.

 

 

 

 

 

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