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Today Will Be Different
By Maria Semple
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Eleanor knows she’s a mess. But today, she will tackle the little things. She will shower and get dressed. She will have her poetry and yoga lessons after dropping off her son, Timby. She won’t swear. She will initiate sex with her husband, Joe. But before she can put her modest plan into action, life happens.
Today, it turns out, is the day Timby has decided to fake sick to weasel his way into his mother’s company. It’s also the day Joe has chosen to tell his office — but not Eleanor — that he’s on vacation. Just when it seems like things can’t go more awry, an encounter with a former colleague produces a graphic memoir whose dramatic tale threatens to reveal a buried family secret.
Today Will Be Different is a hilarious, heart-filled story about reinvention, sisterhood, and how sometimes it takes facing up to our former selves to truly begin living.
Table of Contents
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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.
Because the other way wasn't working. The waking up just to get the day over with until it was time for bed. The grinding it out was a disgrace, an affront to the honor and long shot of being alive at all. The ghost-walking, the short-tempered distraction, the hurried fog. (All of this I'm just assuming, because I have no idea how I come across, my consciousness is that underground, like a toad in winter.) The leaving the world a worse place just by being in it. The blindness to the destruction in my wake. The Mr. Magoo.
If I'm forced to be honest, here's an account of how I left the world last week: worse, worse, better, worse, same, worse, same. Not an inventory to make one swell with pride. I don't necessarily need to make the world a better place, mind you. Today, I will live by the Hippocratic oath: first do no harm.
How hard can it be? Dropping off Timby, having my poetry lesson (my favorite part of life!), taking a yoga class, eating lunch with Sydney Madsen, whom I can't stand but at least I can check her off the list (more on that later), picking up Timby, and giving back to Joe, the underwriter of all this mad abundance.
You're trying to figure out, why the agita surrounding one normal day of white-people problems? Because there's me and there's the beast in me. It would be kind of brilliant if the beast in me played out on a giant canvas, shocking and awe-ing, causing fabulous destruction, talked about forever. If I could swing that, I just might: self-immolate gloriously for the performance-art spectacle. The sad truth? The beast in me plays out on a painfully small scale: regrettable micro-transactions usually involving Timby, my friends, or Joe. I'm irritable and consumed by anxiety when I'm with them; maudlin and shit-talking when I'm not. Ha! Aren't you glad you're at a safe distance, doors locked, windows rolled up? Aw, come on. I'm nice. I'm exaggerating for effect. It's not really like that.
And so the day began, the minute I whipped off my sheets. The click-click-click of Yo-Yo's nails across the hardwood, stopping outside the bedroom. Why, when Joe whips off his sheets, doesn't Yo-Yo trot-trot-trot and wait in abject hope? How can Yo-Yo, on the other side of a closed door, tell it's me and not Joe? It was once depressingly explained by a dog trainer: it's my smell Yo-Yo's caught whiff of. That his idea of nirvana is a dead seal washed up on the beach leaves me asking, Is it time for bed yet? Nope, I'm not doing that. Not today.
I didn't mean to be coy about Sydney Madsen.
When Joe and I arrived in Seattle from New York ten years ago, we were ready to start a family. I'd just wrapped five wearying years at Looper Wash. Everywhere you looked it was Looper Wash T-shirts, bumper stickers, mouse pads. I'm a Vivian. I'm a Dot. You remember. If not, check your nearest dollar store, the two-for-one bin, it's been a while.
Joe, a hand surgeon, had become a legend of sorts for reconstructing the hand of that quarterback whose thumb bent back and nobody thought he'd ever play again but the next year he went on to win the Super Bowl. (I can't remember his name, but even if I did, I couldn't say, due to doctor/patient/nosy-wife confidentiality.)
Joe had job offers everywhere. Why pick Seattle? Joe, a nice Catholic boy from outside Buffalo, couldn't see raising kids in Manhattan, my first choice. We struck a deal. We'd move anywhere he wanted for ten years, and back to New York for ten; his city for ten, my city for ten, back and forth, unto death. (A deal he's conveniently forgotten his end of, I might add, seeing as we're coming up on year ten and not a peep on packing up.)
As everybody knows, being raised Catholic with half a brain means becoming an atheist. At one of our skeptics' conventions (yes, our early years were actually spent doing things like driving to Philadelphia to watch Penn Jillette debate a rabbi! Oh, to be childless again… or not), Joe heard that Seattle was the least religious city in America. Seattle it was.
A Doctors Without Borders board member threw Joe and me a welcome-to-town party. I swanned into her Lake Washington mansion filled with modern art and future friends, mine for the taking. My whole life, I've been liked. Okay, I'll say it: I've been adored. I don't understand why, on account of my disgraceful personality, but somehow it works. Joe says it's because I'm the most guy-like woman he's ever met, but sexy and with no emotional membrane. (A compliment!) I went from room to room, being introduced to a series of women, interchangeable in their decency and warmth. It was that thing where you meet somebody who tells you they like camping and you say, "Oh! I was just talking to someone who's going on a ten-day rafting trip down the Snake River, you should totally meet them," and the person says, "That was me."
What can I say? I'm terrible with faces. And names. And numbers. And times. And dates.
The whole party was a blur, with one woman eager to show me funky shops, another hidden hikes, another Mario Batali's father's Italian restaurant in Pioneer Square, another the best dentist in town who has a glitter painting on his ceiling of a parachuting tiger, yet another willing to share her housekeeper. One of them, Sydney Madsen, invited me to lunch the next day at the Tamarind Tree in the International District.
(Joe has a thing he calls the magazine test. It's the reaction you have when you open the mailbox and pull out a magazine. Instantly, you know if you're happy to see this magazine or bummed. Which is why I don't subscribe to The New Yorker and do subscribe to Us Weekly. Put to the magazine test, Sydney Madsen is the human equivalent of Tinnitus Today.)
That first lunch: She was so careful with her words, so sincere in her gaze, noticed a small spot on her fork and was overly solicitous toward the waiter when asking for a new one, brought her own tea bag and asked for hot water, said she wasn't very hungry so how about we split my green papaya salad, told me she'd never seen Looper Wash but would put a hold on the DVDs at the library.
Am I painting a clear enough picture of the tight-assed dreariness, the selfish cluelessness, the cheap creepiness? A water-stained fork never killed anybody! Buy the DVDs, how about? Eat the food at the restaurant, that's how they stay in business! Worst of all, Sydney Madsen was steady, earnest, without a speck of humor, and talked… very… slowly… as… if… her… platitudes… were… little… gold… coins.
I was in shock. Living too long in New York does that to a girl, gives her the false sense that the world is full of interesting people. Or at least people who are crazy in an interesting way.
At one point I writhed so violently in my chair that Sydney actually asked, "Do you need to use the powder room?" (Powder room? Powder room? Kill her!) The worst part? All those women with whom I'd gladly agreed to go hiking and shopping? They weren't a bunch of women. They were all Sydney Madsen! Damn that blur! It took everything I had to kink her fire hose of new invitations: a weekend at her beach house on Vashon Island, introducing me to the wife of someone for this, the playwright of something for that.
I ran home screaming to Joe.
Joe: You should have been suspicious of someone so eager to make friends, because it probably means she doesn't have any.
Me: This is why I love you, Joe. You just boil it all down. (Joe the boiler. Don't we just love him?)
Forgive me for long-hauling you on Sydney Madsen. My point is: for ten years I haven't been able to shake her. She's the friend I don't like, the friend I don't know what she does for a living because I was too stultified to ask the first time and it would be rude to ask now (because I'm not rude), the friend I can't be mean enough to so she gets the message (because I'm not mean), the friend to whom I keep saying no, no, no, yet she still chases me. She's like Parkinson's, you can't cure her, you can just manage the symptoms.
For today, the lunch bell tolls.
Please know I'm aware that lunch with a boring person is a boutique problem. When I say I have problems, I'm not talking about Sydney Madsen.
Yo-Yo trotting down the street, the prince of Belltown. Oh, Yo-Yo, you foolish creature with your pep and your blind devotion and your busted ear flapping with every prance. How poignant it is, the pride you take in being walked by me, your immortal beloved. If only you knew.
What a disheartening spectacle it's been, a new month, a new condo higher than the last, each packed with blue-badged Amazon squids, every morning squirting by the thousands from their studio apartments onto my block, heads in devices, never looking up. (They work for Amazon, so you know they're soulless. The only question, how soulless?) It makes me pine for the days when Third Ave. was just me, empty storefronts and the one tweaker yelling, "That's how you spell America!"
Outside our building, Dennis stood by his wheelie trash can and refilled the poop-bag dispenser. "Good morning, you two."
"Good morning, Dennis!" Instead of my usual breezing past, I stopped and looked him in the eye. "How's your day so far?"
"Oh, can't complain," he said. "You?"
"Can complain, but won't."
Today, already a net gain.
I opened the front door of our apartment. At the end of the hallway: Joe face down at the table, his forehead flat on the newspaper, arms splayed with bent elbows as if under arrest.
It was a jarring image, one of pure defeat, the last thing I'd ever associate with Joe—
The door shut. I unclipped Yo-Yo's harness. By the time I straightened, my stricken husband had gotten up and disappeared into his office. Whatever it was, he didn't want to talk about it.
My attitude? Works for me!
Yo-Yo raced to his food, greyhound-style, back legs vaulting past his front. Realizing it was the same dry food that had been there before his walk, he became overwhelmed with confusion and betrayal. He took one step and stared at a spot on the floor.
Timby's light clicked on. God bless him, up before the alarm. I went into his bathroom and found him on the step stool in his PJs.
"Morning, darling. Look at you, up and awake."
He stopped what he was doing. "Can we have bacon?"
Timby, in the mirror, waited for me to leave. I lowered my eyes. The little Quick Draw McGraw beat my glance. He pushed something into the sink before I could see it. The unmistakable clang of lightweight plastic. The Sephora 200!
It was nobody's fault but my own, Santa putting a makeup kit in Timby's stocking. It's how I'd buy myself extra time at Nordstrom, telling Timby to roam cosmetics. The girls there loved his gentle nature, his sugar-sack body, his squeaky voice. Soon enough, they were making him up. I don't know if he liked the makeup as much as being doted on by a gaggle of blondes. On a lark, I picked up a kit the size of a paperback that unfolded and fanned out to reveal six different makeup trays (!) holding two hundred (!) shadows, glosses, blushes, and whatever-they-weres. The person who'd found a way to cram so much into so little should seriously be working for NASA. If they still have that.
"You do realize you're not wearing makeup to school," I told him.
"I know, Mom." The sigh and shoulder heave right out of the Disney Channel. Again, my bad for letting it take root. After school, a jigsaw puzzle!
I emerged from Timby's room. Yo-Yo, standing anxiously, shivered with relief upon seeing that I still existed. Knowing I'd be heading to the kitchen to make breakfast, he raced me to his food bowl. This time he deigned to eat some, one eye on me.
Joe was back and making himself tea.
"How's things?" I asked.
"Don't you look nice," he said.
True to my grand scheme for the day, I'd showered and put on a dress and oxfords. If you beheld my closet, you'd see a woman of specific style. Dresses from France and Belgium, price tags ripped off before I got home because Joe would have an aneurysm, and every iteration of flat black shoe… again, no need to discuss price. Buy them? Yes. Put them on? On most days, too much energy.
"Olivia's coming tonight," I said with a wink, already tasting the wine flight and rigatoni at Tavolàta.
"How about she takes Timby out so we can have a little alone time?" Joe grabbed me by the waist and pulled me in as if we weren't a couple of fifty-year-olds.
Here's who I envy: lesbians. Why? Lesbian bed death. Apparently, after a lesbian couple's initial flush of hot sex, they stop having it altogether. It makes perfect sense. Left to their own devices, women would stop having sex after they have children. There's no evolutionary need for it. Our brains know it, our body knows it. Who feels sexy during the slog of motherhood, the middle-aged fat roll and the flattening butt? What woman wants anyone to see her naked, let alone fondle her breasts, squishy now like bags of cake batter, or touch her stomach, spongy like breadfruit? Who wants to pretend they're all sexed up when the honeypot is dry?
Me, that's who, if I don't want to get switched out for a younger model.
"Alone time it is," I said to Joe.
"Mom, this broke." Timby came in with his ukulele and plonked it down on the counter. Suspiciously near the trash. "The sound's all messed up."
"What do you propose we do?" I asked, daring him to say, Buy a new one.
Joe picked up the ukulele and strummed. "It's a little out of tune, that's all." He began to adjust the strings.
"Hey," I said. "Since when can you tune a ukulele?"
"I'm a man of many mysteries," Joe said and gave the instrument a final dulcet strum.
The bacon and French toast were being wolfed, the smoothies being drunk. Timby was deep into an Archie Double Digest. My smile was on lockdown.
Two years ago when I was getting all martyr-y about having to make breakfast every morning, Joe said, "I pay for this circus. Can you please climb down off your cross and make breakfast without the constant sighing?"
I know what you're going to say: What a jerk! What a sexist thug! But Joe had a point. Lots of women would gladly do worse for a closet full of Antwerp. From that moment on, it was service with a smile. It's called knowing when you've got a weak hand.
Joe showed Timby the newspaper. "The Pinball Expo is coming back to town. Wanna go?"
"Do you think the Evel Knievel machine will still be broken?"
"Almost certainly," Joe said.
I handed over the poem I'd printed out and heavily annotated.
"Okay, who's going to help me?" I asked.
Timby didn't look up from his Archie.
Joe took it. "Ooh, Robert Lowell."
I began from memory: "'Nautical Island's hermit heiress still lives through winter in her Spartan cottage; her sheep still graze above the sea. Her son's a bishop. Her farmer's first selectman'—"
"'Her farmer is first selectman,'" Joe said.
"Shoot. 'Her farmer is first selectman.'"
I shushed Timby and continued with eyes closed. "'… in our village; she's in her dotage. Thirsting for the hierarchic privacy of Queen Victoria's century, she buys up all the eyesores facing her shore, and lets them fall. The season's ill—we've lost our summer millionaire, who seemed to leap from an L. L. Bean catalogue'—"
"Mommy, look at Yo-Yo. See how his chin is sitting on his paws?"
Yo-Yo was positioned on his pink lozenge so he could watch for dropped food, his little white paws delicately crossed.
"Aww," I said.
"Can I have your phone?" Timby asked.
"Just enjoy your pet," I said. "This doesn't have to turn into electronics."
"It's very cool what Mom is doing," Joe said to Timby. "Always learning."
"Learning and forgetting," I said. "But thank you."
He shot me an air kiss.
I pressed onward. "'His nine-knot yawl was auctioned off to lobstermen'—"
"Don't we love Yo-Yo?" Timby asked.
"We do." The simple truth. Yo-Yo is the world's cutest dog, part Boston terrier, part pug, part something else… brindle-and-white with a black patch on one eye, bat ears, smooshed face, and curlicue tail. Before the Amazon invasion, when it was just me and hookers on the street, one remarked, "It's like if Barbie had a pit bull."
"Daddy," Timby said. "Don't you love Yo-Yo?"
Joe looked at Yo-Yo and considered the question. (More evidence of Joe's superiority: he thinks before he speaks.)
"He's a little weird," Joe said and returned to the poem.
Timby dropped his fork. I dropped my jaw.
"Weird?" Timby cried.
Joe looked up. "Yeah. What?"
"Oh, Daddy! How can you say that?"
"He just sits there all day looking depressed," Joe said. "When we come home, he doesn't greet us at the door. When we are here, he just sleeps, waits for food to drop, or stares at the front door like he has a migraine."
For Timby and me, there were simply no words.
"I know what he's getting out of us," Joe said. "I just don't know what we're getting out of him."
Timby jumped out of his chair and lay across Yo-Yo, his version of a hug. "Oh, Yo-Yo! I love you."
"Keep going." Joe flicked the poem. "You're doing great. 'The season's ill'…"
"'The season's ill,'" I said. "'We've lost our summer millionaire, who seemed to leap from an L. L. Bean catalogue'—" To Timby: "You. Get ready."
"Are we driving through or are you walking me in?"
"Driving. I have Alonzo at eight thirty."
Our breakfast over, Yo-Yo got up from his pillow. Joe and I watched as he walked to the front door and stared at it.
"I didn't realize I was being controversial," Joe said. "'The season's ill.'"
It's easy to tell who went to Catholic school by how they react when they drive up Queen Anne Hill and behold the Galer Street School. I didn't, so to me it's a stately brick building with a huge flat yard and improbably dynamite view of the Puget Sound. Joe did, so he goes white with flashbacks of nuns whacking his hands with rulers, priests threatening him with God's wrath, and spectacle-snatching bullies roaming the halls unchecked.
By the time we pulled into drop-off, I'd recited the poem twice perfectly and was doing it a third time for charm. "'One dark night, my Tudor Ford climbed the hill's skull.' Wait, is that right?"
Ominous silence from the backseat. "Hey," I said. "Are you even following along?"
"I am, Mom. You're doing perfect."
"Perfectly. Adverbs end in l-y." Timby wasn't in the rearview mirror. I figure-eighted it to see him hunched over something. "What are you doing?"
"Nothing." Followed again by that high-pitched rattle of plastic.
"Hey! No makeup."
"Then why did Santa put it in my stocking?"
I turned around but Timby's door had opened and shut. By the time I swung back, he was bounding up the front steps. In the reflection of the school's front door, I caught Timby's eyelids smeared with rouge. I rolled down my window.
"You little sneak, get back here!"
The car behind me honked. Ah, well, he was the school's problem now.
Me peeling out of Galer Street with seven child-free hours on the horizon? Cue the banjo getaway music.
"'I myself am hell; nobody's here—only skunks, that search in the moonlight for a bite to eat. They march on their soles up Main Street: white stripes, moonstruck eyes' red fire under the chalk-dry and spar spire of the Trinitarian Church. I stand on top of our back steps and breathe the rich air—a mother skunk with her column of kittens swills the garbage pail. She jabs her wedge-head in a cup of sour cream, drops her ostrich tail, and will not scare.'"
I'd nailed it, syllable for syllable.
Alonzo stuck out his hand. "Congratulations."
You know how your brain turns to mush? How it starts when you're pregnant? You laugh, full of wonder and conspiracy, and you chide yourself, Me and my pregnancy brain! Then you give birth and your brain doesn't return? But you're breast-feeding, so you laugh, as if you're a member of an exclusive club? Me and my nursing brain! But then you stop nursing and the terrible truth descends: Your good brain is never coming back. You've traded vocabulary, lucidity, and memory for motherhood. You know how you're in the middle of a sentence and you realize at the end you're going to need to call up a certain word and you're worried you won't be able to, but you're already committed so you hurtle along and then pause because you've arrived at the end but the word hasn't? And it's not even a ten-dollar word you're after, like polemic or shibboleth, but a two-dollar word, like distinctive, so you just end up saying amazing?
Which is how you join the gang of nitwits who describe everything as amazing.
Well, it rattled the hell out of me. I had a memoir to write. Yes, much of my memoir was going to be illustrations. No problem there. The words were the rub. With a book, I couldn't just blather on in my accustomed way. Economy was everything. And economy wasn't happening due to the abovementioned bad brain.
I got the big idea to sharpen my instrument by memorizing poems. My mother was an actress; she used to recite Shakespeare soliloquies before bed. It was amazing. (There! Amazing! If my brain weren't so bad I might have said, It was proof she was disciplined and properly educated and may have had an inkling of her terrible fate.) So I did what anyone would do: I picked up the phone, called the University of Washington, and asked for their finest poetry teacher.
For the past year I've been meeting Alonzo Wrenn every Thursday morning at Lola for private lessons. He assigns me a poem. I recite it from memory, and the conversation gallops where it may. I pay him fifty bucks plus breakfast. Alonzo would buy me breakfast, so great is his love of poetry, but my will is stronger, so he accepts it and the crisp bill with a poet's grace.
"What did you think?" Alonzo asked.
He was a big guy, younger than me, with a mop of mouse-colored hair atop his exceedingly kind face. He always wore a suit, linen in the summer, wool in the winter. Today's was chocolate with a sheen; it must have been vintage, and under it a shirt the color of parchment. His tie was moiré, his pocket square starched white. (Joe's mother made him wear a suit and tie to the dentist to show "respect for the profession." Little Joe wearing a tie in the dentist's chair = falling in love all over.)
- Named a Notable Book of 2016 by the Washington Post, one of Amazon's Top 100 Books of the Year, one of New York Times Book Review's 100 Notable Books, one of The Guardian's Best Books of 2016, one of NPR's Best Books of 2016, a Must-Read Book of 2016 by PopSugar, one of EW's 20 Best Books of 2016, one of Glamour's Top Ten Books of the Year, and one of Kirkus Reviews' "Best 100 Fiction Books of 2016"
"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 DIFFERENTis 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 DIFFERENTis 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 DIFFERENTstarts 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 DIFFERENTis 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 DIFFERENTis 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 DIFFERENThas 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 DIFFERENTis 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 DIFFERENTis 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
- "Downright hard to put down.... unrelentingly entertaining, with some nice pathos thrown in the mix."—Steph Cha, USA Today (3/4 stars)
- "Absolutely delicious black comedy.... A witty delight."—Yvonne Zipp, Christian Science Monitor
- "Humorously depicts the struggle to keep it together."—Jamie Blynn, US Weekly
- "Comedic and charming."—Leigh Nordstrom, Women's Wear Daily
- "There are few readers who won't find the pathos and struggle of [Eleanor's] journey towards her new and really authentic self genuine and heartfelt."—Jana Siciliano, Bookreporter
- "There are some glorious moments of social satire."—Zoë Apostolides, Financial Times
- "[Semple's] a master at creating comedy out of the neuroses of people with too much time and money on their hands."—Izzy Grinspan, New York Magazine
- "Semple...has a singular genius for turning the ordinary inside-out and looking at it slantwise.... The allusions are quick and rich, the riffs nonstop and spot-on, and the results surprising."—Ellen Akins, Newsday
- "While TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT can be outrageously funny, it reaches deeper into its protagonist and finds unstill waters, a river of sadness, deep within."—Jeremy Kohler, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
- "Semple...has crafted another fast-paced story full of twists and turns that double down on 'mean is funny.' The result is a biting satire of well-off white liberal life that skewers everything in its path while maintaining a level of affection for its characters that balances out its acerbic sensibility."—Wendeline O. Wright, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- "Both hilarious and moving."—Terry Gross, NPR's Fresh Air
- "Warm, funny and seriously good."—Daily Kos
- "A quick punch to the funny bone."—San Antonio Express-News
- "Nothing could top Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette but her new comic novel comes close.... You'll laugh. A lot."—Sherryl Connelly, New York Daily News
- "It's pretty much impossible to read Maria Semple without wanting to give the author a fist-bump. She holds up the coolest, cruelest mirror to today's farm-to-tech society."—Joanna Novak, Bustle
- "Compulsively readable and surprisingly resonant.... Perfectly captures what it feels like to be a parent and a sibling and a wife and an artist, especially one who continuously feels that she is doing it all imperfectly."—Adrienne Martini, Austin Chronicle
- "The humor, deft plotting and fresh and witty writing that trademark Semple's fiction will win you over."—Jeffrey Ann Goudie, Kansas City Star
- "With her keen eye for detail and a razor-sharp, snark-tinged wit, Semple is becoming one of our great writers about place."—Andrew Travers, Aspen Times
- "Semple has created a depressed, mean-spirited, forgetful, self-centered, scatterbrained and sometimes unlikable main character that you can't help but fall in love with"—Denver Post
- "an irresistibly funny portrait of a woman who refuses to give up on love"—Moira McDonald, Seattle Times
- On Sale
- Oct 4, 2016
- Page Count
- 288 pages
- Little, Brown and Company