First published in 2016
My rating: 3 out of 5
The Short Of It:
Not terrible, but not nearly as good as "Where'd You Go, Bernadette."
The Long Of It:
If you're expecting Maria Semple's new novel to be another "Where'd You Go, Bernadette," you'd be half right. It's got several similar plot points, and it tries -- too hard, at times -- to reproduce the quirk, wackiness and sarcastic worldview of "Bernadette." But it lacks the sweet charm and laugh-out-loud humor that made Semple's previous novel so special.
"Today Will Be Different" takes place entirely in one action-packed day in Seattle. Eleanor Flood wakes up and vows to be a better person, to start getting her shit together, to be a more present mom and wife. And the world laughs at her and says, "Not today, you're not!" Misadventures and soul-searching and ensue.
Like Bernadette, Eleanor is a former career woman haunted by some difficult events in her past. Like Bernadette, she's a questionable mother to a cute, old-soul kid, she's married to an affable man with a reasonably important job, and she's kinda cynical and mean with a vague idea that the world is out to get her.
It's impossible not to compare "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" and "Today Will Be Different" when they're so alike, and "Bernadette" wins the contest hands-down. Where Bernadette's antics made me laugh, Eleanor sometimes comes across as judgmental, self-centered and whiny. Bernadette also redeems herself at the end of the novel much more successfully (and in a much more interesting way -- via Antarctica cruise) than Eleanor does. I also felt like the plot of "Today" could've been fleshed out a lot more; plenty of questions were raised but never answered.
All this is not to say you shouldn't try "Today Will Be Different." The writing was good -- easy to read, with similar tempo and zinger-filled prose to "Bernadette," and some of the oddball quirkiness is definitely there. If you enjoyed "Bernadette" you'll probably find Semple's new book to be a decent read; just don't expect it to be as good as its predecessor. And if you don't love it, at least it's short -- I read most of it in one day.