I was surprised by how much I loved Where’d You Go Bernadette? and so when I saw that Marie Semple had a new book out I knew I would read it. I was even luckier to have the opportunity to enjoy the audiobook version of this book because the narrator, Kathleen Wilhoite, did an amazing job capturing the feeling of all of the characters. Perhaps that is why she also narrated Bernadette!
In Today I Will Be Different Eleanor Flood, her famous husband, Joe, and her son Timby live in Seattle. Eleanor and Joe are New Yorkers and atheists. While Joe has found grand success as a sought-after hand surgeon in Seattle, Eleanor has been struggling to fit into their community and especially with the parents at Timby’s school. She begins the morning by setting small obtainable goals that she feels will make today different. She makes a promise to herself to shower and get dressed, to take her son Timby to school and then attend her poetry lesson, and to initiate sex with her husband. But before she can quietly change her day in these small ways her son Timby plays sick. That small change in her plans, unintended by Eleanor, alters the course of her life dramatically.
Maria Semple delivers, in Eleanor, another complex female character that I could not help but connect with deeply. Her problems may be first-world ones but they are so common that if you can read this book and not see women you know then you either; (a) don’t know any women or (b) you aren’t paying attention. Eleanor’s quick wit and self-deprecating sense of humor furthers my love of this character and keeps the story moving. As Eleanor and Timby work through their day we see the subtle (and not-so subtle) layers of Eleanor more and more clearly. Much like Where’d You Go Bernadette there are twists and turns. But, for me, the characters drive this story and Eleanor will stay with me much longer than any the plot.
The narrator for this audiobook has a wonderfully gravelly voice that captures both the New Yorker feel of Eleanor as well as the other characters, especially Timby, perfectly. Perhaps it is because I just finished The Princess Diarist but her voice reminded me of Carrie Fisher’s. This is also a short audiobook, only about six and a half hours, and it goes too quickly.
If you enjoyed Maria Semple’s first novel you are sure to enjoy Today Will be Different.
Tell me, please!
If you read this book, what did you think?
If not, what are some of your favorite female characters?
I always enjoy Sophie Kinsella’s books. I have even featured her in an Author Obsession spotlight. Most people know her for her Shopoholic series but I vastly prefer the books she has written outside of Becky Bloomwood’s insatiable thirst for things. I didn’t even know Kinsella had a new book coming out until I ran across it in the Indigo bookstore in Montreal. It is the lone fiction book I purchased in my Canadian travels.
Surprise Me is the story of Sylvie and Dan. They have been blissfully coupled for ten years, they have twin girls and they are so in sync that they can predict each others meal choices and finish one anothers sentences. All is idyllic. Except, of course, it can never stay that way. After a visit to their doctor they are told they could live another sixty-eight years. The realization that they will be eating together and sleeping together for that much longer fills them with panic. They decide (well, mostly Sylvie decides) to embark on Project Surprise Me to shake up their predictable routine. But not all surprises are fun.
The magic of Sophie Kinsella lies in her ability to redeem her character from the tailspin of poor choices they make in the first half of each story and present you with a reformed character that you adore by the end of the book. This may be a predictable formula but it never stales since Kinsella always manages to make me cheer and applaud as the characters eventually climb out of the mess. This particular story went a step farther and I found myself gasping aloud in surprise at one of the plot points. I went so far as to make a friend read the book so we could have the following conversation.
Me, “(Character redacted to avoid spoilers) was the absolute worst right?!?”
Friend, “The worst.”
Me, “But could you believe…???!!!??”
I admit that there were moments I wanted to strangle or slap Sylvie. It is difficult to explain why without spoiling some of the finer moments, but she just struck me as too fragile to be a true fictional friend. Dan had his moments with me as well. And just when I wondered how this was going to end, Sophie Kinsella worked her magic and gave me another fantastic read.
Tell me, please!
Have you read Sophie Kinsella’s books?
I read (and was very entertained by) Mindy Kaling’s first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns). Her second book Why Not Me? was a delightful and hilarious look at the developing woman that is Mindy. I really enjoyed that she recognized that we can continue to grow and change as people even after we leave college and get our first jobs if we are introspective and willing to work. Plus, some of that growing is hilarious.
I laughed (really really hard) at some of the essays especially the one highlighting her Hollywood grooming tips and tricks. To quote the fantastic Micah McCain, “I told you it was a wig!” Side note: have you seen his parody of Beauty and the Beast? Watch it here at Bonjour Girl.
And, of course, she created an immediate kinship between the two of us when she talked about some of her insomnia inducing concerns. Don’t worry Mindy, absolutely no one knows how much natural gas actually costs. You can attempt to use the Apples to Apples comparison chart but it will just raise more questions than it gives answers. In the end we all get overwhelmed and just pay the damn thing before they take our heat away.
Beyond being hilarious and willing to show her readers some snippets of her life, this book asks an important question, “Why not me?” When I first saw the cover I thought she was asking, “Why is everyone else getting a turn and not me?” And this might be because she is posed half way in the door like everyone’s sibling interrupting an activity. But what she really is asking is more like, “Why the hell not me you dumb lazy jerk?” while she closes the door to her office and gets back to work on one of her many jobs.
Her final essay bears the same title as the book and it is that piece that will probably stick with me forever. I will forget about her faux pregnancy Spanx (Nope. I won’t. That was amazing.) and I might not remember which is her favorite McDonald’s value meal, but I will remember the importance of that question. When challenged to grow as a person and change something about your life we are encouraged to ask “Why not?” instead of “Why?” Mindy Kaling takes this question one step further. When a job needs to be done or an opportunity arises it is not “Why me?” but “Why not me?”
From now on, I think this will be my rally cry. Continue reading “Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling”