Aspen Times Weekly book review: ‘Today Will Be Different’ |

Aspen Times Weekly book review: ‘Today Will Be Different’

by Andrew Travers


‘Today Will Be Different’

Maria Semple

259 pages, hardcover; $27

Little, Brown and Company, 2016

The brilliant but beleaguered Eleanor Flood romps about Seattle in “Today Will Be Different,” Aspen native Maria Semple’s delightful follow-up novel to the tour de force “Where’d You Go Bernadette.”

Eleanor — with her bright son Timby in tow — is playing detective as she searches for her husband, a hand doctor who appears to have given her the slip. On the hunt, she has madcap run-ins with a poet/Costco stock boy and a conceptual artist Eleanor clashed with during long-ago days as a TV animator while she also flashes back to her childhood in Aspen and recounts her estranged sister’s life in New Orleans.

Local readers — especially anyone with memories of the late 1970s here — will eat up the Aspen color in this book. There are cameos from former mayor Bill Stirling and guitarist Bobby Mason, barbecue from Hickory House and a walk around the Aspen Institute campus, a “Thompson for Sheriff” poster and a candy run to Carl’s Pharmacy.

A wonderful short graphic memoir — drawn by artist Eric Chase Anderson and inserted early in the book — includes a run-down of a typical Flood girls’ after-school Thursday in 1977 selling The Aspen Times downtown (while dad drinks in the Jerome Bar) along with memories of a bear break-in at home and of the day Ted Bundy escaped from the courthouse.

Those sections alone make “Today Will Be Different” required reading for Aspenites. But the joys of this novel extend far beyond the frisson of reading our town brought to life by a world-class fiction writer who knows it well.

Like “Bernadette,” the new book is an extraordinarily entertaining page-turner of a literary comedy. Filled with uproarious incident and whip-smart observation from an undeniably loveable (and undeniably misanthropic) narrator, “Today Will Be Different” has unpredictable laughs on nearly every page and in each taut paragraph.

Yet along with all the snickering, this is a book with heart. Somewhere amid all the slapstick set pieces, Semple crafts a resonant story about resentment, love, forgiveness and the ties that bind but sometimes break.