“Lying in bed this morning, I had set the bar laughably low: look people in the eye, get dressed, smile! It should have been a Sunday drive. Then that prankster Reality appeared in the pickup truck ahead of me and started tossing watermelons out of the back. And it wasn’t even one o’clock!”
Eleanor Flood chose today to change the life she fell into. She was once a distinguished illustrator in New York City, but then marriage and motherhood delivered her a script for a rather particular role and she took it as a whole without questioning. A book deal arose from memories tainted of avoidance. It has been eight years and Eleanor Flood chose today to change the life she fell into, but life was already happening while she was busy making other plans.
“I have an opinion, therefore I am. My stance? I have no opinion, therefore I am superior to you.”
I believe I was about fifty pages in when a friend messaged me to ask how I felt about Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple. I had been publicly counting the days for its release, unrelentingly talking about how I just had to read it as soon as it came out. This friend was present when I found a copy at a bookstore in Covent Garden and then proceeded to hug it. I replied with, “I understand, but I don’t understand”.
Trying to make sense of things, of people, is both a blessing and a curse. We don’t necessary make sense, and people certainly don’t owe me anything, let alone making sense, but one would think that by having access to their unabridged thoughts the pieces would somehow find their way to one another. I would like to think that Eleanor Flood is/was on a self-preservation mode. That was what kept me going, to be honest.
“‘That’s the thing about hard times,’ I said. ‘Generally speaking, one survives.’”
There is absolutely no doubt that Maria Semple is a clever writer, an incredibly skilled and witty author. Today Will Be Different is full of humor, dark humor, non-bullshit humor. It’s a well-written book, craftily divided to keep the reader interested. I wouldn’t call it endearing, I don’t think that was ever one of this book’s goals, but I would certainly call it intriguing. Navigating reality through someone else’s eyes is always interesting, but when that someone seems to be looking at the world from a completely different angle, it’s an experience.
Oh, and there were details that were absolutely extraordinary. The moment Eleanor talks about loss, for example, how it affects the way you see things, taste things, almost as if a new filter is installed and suddenly you acknowledge minutiae that wasn’t there in the first place.
“I knew then: If underneath anger was fear, then underneath fear was love. Everything came down to the terror of losing what you love.”
If I had to describe this book in one quote, that would be it. If these past few centuries have, or should have, taught us anything, is that fear can be used as a weapon, against ourselves, against others, against the world. It’s a two-edged sword, and lately we seem to be focusing mostly on the one edge that has us throwing stones from under our own glass roofs.
Eleanor Flood is who she is, unapologetically so. If she comes up with some questioning ideas, some doubtful reasoning? Sure, but don’t we all? It’s refreshing how she calls herself out on it.
Today Will Be Different might be slightly chaotic, but not without reason. Oh, and so unexpectedly poignant.