New Orleans is rooted with whimsical and alluring creatives both young and old. Music coming out of our city is not just jazz, but rather an eclectic arrangement of genres and talent that marches, rocks, sings, dances and toots to the beat of everything that is New Orleans — all of its nooks and crannies; its dark clouds and muddy bayous; its hot sauce and second lines. Our streets are also lined (in the best parts of town) with poets and writers eager to share their stories to open ears and hearts.
As seen in every issue of New Orleans Magazine, Read + Spin highlights a few delightful works recently released by locals, and works that highlight New Orleans’ many bright colors. With limited space on the page and a seemingly endless fountain of albums, EPs, novels, biographies, coffee table books, cookbooks and more coming to my office for review on a daily basis, I decided to begin an extension of this Local Color column. Between each issue of New Orleans Magazine, I will compose a review on at least one of my recent indulgences.
FICTION: Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
I am not married, I have no children, I am just starting out in my career — and heck, I don’t even know what it is like to have a real adult fight with my younger sister (she’s just 17). Regardless, I found myself immersed in Today will Be Different, by best-selling author, Maria Semple. Just under 300 pages, Today will Be Different travels to New Orleans, New York and Seattle. Following Eleanor Flood, a 40-something mom and once-successful animator, as she tries to discover the whereabouts of her husband, spends the day with her eight-year-old son and tames the beast that is her subconscious bubbling at the rim after caging away her family’s past.
Admittedly, I have not read Semple’s famed novel, Where’d You Go Bernadette, released in 2010. This may affect my perception of Today will Be Different, just released early this October, as it seems there are some plotline parallels. As a stand-alone work, however, Today will Be Different is an entertaining and witty story. Eleanor Flood’s emotional pilgrimage, touching on her present and past enigmas, is honest and raw.
You know those days when you feel vulnerable, inadequate and you can’t seem to catch a break? Semple conveys these very human emotions, and how deep certain scars can resonate in a person’s everyday life long after the initial wound. While I will say that Eleanor Flood’s character seems to have it all, and the characters don’t encounter anything controversial or earth-shatteringly serious, I still understood the pure humanity in Eleanor Flood’s journey and the roller coaster of “life happens” incidences that lead her to an existential crisis. Semple keeps it balanced with smile-inducing moments of comic relief from Timby, Eleanor Flood’s young son, and her character’s “unapologetically verbal” tendencies.
This is one of those books that follows the protagonist through just one day, but jumps between timelines to offer context with the character’s past, eventually leading to her current state of “trainwreck-ness.” Not an overly complex book, most could enjoy reading Today will Be Different in a single day. I recommend keeping it at your side for those long car rides (or in my case, on a plane) for your weekend getaways and holiday trips.