I like Maria Semple.
Like, I really, really, really like Maria Semple.
Here’s the reason why.
I feel like Maria Semple gets it. And, then she says it. Yet, she says it in a way that’s fresh, but not too fussy (see Elizabeth Strout… but toooooooootaallllyyyy different content).
I felt that when I read Where’d You Go, Bernadette last year.
Yes, it was a funny sorta book. But, beneath the funny was this absolutely human story about what it’s like to be a fairly good, but utterly complex, flawed woman.
Today Will Be Different explored similar themes but with a whole new cast of characters.
You have a creative, complicated narrator (Eleanor), who is trying to cope (not altogether successfully) with her past, while trying to figure out (not altogether successfully) what to do with her future. She holds these incredibly honest internal conversations with herself – one part of her urging, pleading, plodding towards something better, the other part acting purely out of emotion and instinct.
You also have an odd child, who remains lovable in his quirkiness. And, might also be gay. Or transgender. Or just original. (But, it’s not really important either way.)
You have a husband that plays a subtle role, but is beloved and well-meaning, nonetheless. And, holy plot twist, Batman! <—- Not really a spoiler alert.
And, then you just go through one crazy day with Eleanor, plus some flashbacks, plus a short graphic memoir-esque set of illustrations (not kidding, but it’s cool).
It’s funny, yes. But, it’s also suspenseful in a careful sort of way. You never quite know what’s coming because life is messy and it sometimes happens like that.
Though the course of her life and… frankly… the events of her day are – at times – unrealistic, they’re also somehow completely honest and heartbreaking, without actually meaning to be. (See: The kid that cracks a joke about something terrible in his life, oblivious to the audience’s uncomfortable pause of pity.)
I don’t know why. I don’t know how. But, this whole recipe… it works! For me, it TOTALLY works!
I don’t know if Maria Semple is for everyone. Maybe she’s not meant to be. Maybe none of us are meant to be.
Either way, can we just celebrate how awesome it is that there are publishers willing to put something this original out there and writers brave enough to create it?
** Slow clap for Maria Semple **