Today Will Be Different – Review

“Because the other way wasn’t working. The waking up just to get the day over with until it was time for bed. The grinding it out was a disgrace, an affront to the honor and long shot of being alive at all.”

Today Will Be Different is exactly the book I needed to read! The story about a woman, Eleanor Flood, struggling with her identity in so many ways. She is a writer, but she keeps avoiding her editor and pushing back the book. (minus the editor, SO RELATABLE) Excuses build, pressure mounts, anxiety looms!

The book opens with a mantra of all the things she will do differently. She will be present. She will make eye contact. She’ll spend time with her son and make effort with her husband. She will be kind to strangers and smile. There is more, but you get the idea. Her goal is to be the person she wants to be, not the person she generally is. Which is, quite frankly, a mess.

There is something to the theory that the Universe gives us what we need, and we see that theory shine as the day unfolds for Eleanor. First her son, Timby, says he is sick and the school makes her take him home. Determined to teach him a lesson, they end up going to her husband’s office, where his staff thinks they’ve been on vacation. They haven’t. She is forced to take Timby to a lunch she tried to cancel, only to find out that it was with a former colleague. And he doesn’t know that parts of her past were definitely, assuredly, and soundly put to rest in the past. Now Timby is asking questions he shouldn’t be asking, Eleanor still doesn’t know where her husband is, and nothing in her day unfolds anything like what she envisioned when she woke up.

“The world isn’t your friend,” Joe told Eleanor. “It’s not designed to go your way. All you can do is make the decisions to muscle through and fight the trend.”

I completely related to Eleanor. Not just with her sarcasm, or the way she really does try to make better decisions. It is a struggle sometimes to remember to be grateful, or to smile at strangers, or to remember the little things when the big things feel so big. It isn’t that you mean to fall in a rut with your marriage, or to get frustrated when your kid is being a kid. It just can happen sometimes. We all need reminders to help us stay on track. And when reminders don’t work, well, getting knocked with a hard dose of reality usually does the trick.

And that’s what this book is about. Eleanor has been in a rut. A big rut for a long time. But her husband was always the steady hand guiding her on the tightrope she felt balanced on. She knew him. She could rely on him. So, when he isn’t in the office, the giant flare of ‘what ifs’ force Eleanor into a full panic. Which, again, I think is completely understandable. Everything is fine. Until it isn’t.

While Eleanor scrambles through her day trying to solve the mystery of Joe, she is dragging along her third grade son, and the conversations these two had were amazing.

“Gee, I said. “I always thought you didn’t get my jokes.”

“I get them,” he said. “Most of the time they’re just not funny.”

Anyone who has had a child too smart for their own good can probably relate to that! The other thing I adored about this book, is this is all one day. It may seem that filling a book with the mundanity of a single day would be tedious and boring. Except, it isn’t. The brilliance in this, is of course, we’ve all had days like that. Maybe not in these exact circumstances, but I know I have had more than one day that seems to stretch into an eternity of disaster. We empathize with Eleanor more and more as the endless procession of he day just keeps unfolding, and she just tries to stay afloat.

The book sounds like it should be an eye-rolling romp through first-world problems. But the thing that makes it leap from tolerable to entertaining is that Eleanor completely admits to the ridiculousness of her life, and her problems. She is up front about why her life shouldn’t be as hard as she makes it. She is self-deprecating and full on admits that her problems are tame in nature to people with more serious obstacles in their way.

“If I’m forced to be honest, here’s an account of how I left the world last week “worse, worse, better, worse, same, worse, same. Not an inventory to make one swell with pride.”

This book may not resonate with everyone. I get that. We don’t all have mid-life crises looming or wonder how our lives landed in such different places than we aimed. It isn’t that life is bad. It’s just not how we pictured. It runs away with itself, and we can be helpless passengers. The trick is in admitting that we allow the train to derail. That we slip into the gentle comfort of mediocrity so that we can then blame the world for our misfortune or bad luck. Today Will Be Different gently nudges us into this realization that life is indeed what we make of it. That we cannot rely on the steady husband or the tenacious child to hold us afloat. That we must face the secrets of our past, and that we must choose the life we want to live. Of course, all of this is easier said than done.

It is easier to accept difficult truths through laughter, and this book, if nothing else will let you laugh. Eleanor is a character in every aspect of the word. And perhaps, through the people she meets, or the situations she finds herself in, you may also find that you can laugh at yourself as well.

Thank you Little, Brown for sending me a copy to read and review! I LOVED it!!!

The Goddesses – Review

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”

Nancy wants nothing more than to forget her life in San Diego. Even more, she wants to forget why her and her family had to move to Hawaii in the first place. Meeting Ana, pronounced On-a, gives her a chance to reinvent herself into the fearless and bold woman she always wanted to be.

Ana is a free spirit, deep and living a life full of meaning. Nancy wants her freedom. She wants her spiritualism. She wants space from the demands of her twin teenage boys and her unfaithful husband. Nancy finds herself drawn to Ana, drawn to her irresistible nature.

“Habitual momentum,” she said, “dictates of our lives. It’s hard to change our patterns. And it’s easy to get stuck.”

When Ana asks Nancy for help, righting the wrongs of her past to help force good karma in her life, Nancy says yes without hesitation. Every task completed makes Nancy feel powerful and alive.

“Delivering the karma could be hard sometimes, but afterwards you really did feel like a goddess.”

The Goddesses is an exploration of friendship. How the line between friends can easily become blurred. We often see these types of novels use the similarity of passion and obsession between couples. To use this concept between friends is a twist I was excited to read about.

I can see how the novel is psychological; however, it missed the mark for being suspenseful or thrilling for me. Ana felt very predictable to me. Nothing she did was shocking, and honestly, Nancy was way too gullible to be believable. The details meant to be confusing or climatic, fell flat for me. By the end, even the dramatic twists weren’t that impactful.

The aspect of friendship and how we use people to escape our own lives was interesting, and I did like that aspect of the book. Nancy was an interesting character. Her desperation to be someone else, for this new personality to erase all the pain in her past should have been compelling. I felt for her.

Life throws some fairly cruel curveballs sometimes. They can be difficult, and I think most people have wished for a redo at one point or another. The problem with Nancy for me, though, is that she isn’t very sympathetic. I can understand her struggles with her husband, and even her lack of ability to understand her sons should have made her sympathetic.

“Terrible that sometimes, as a parent, the easiest thing to do is to ignore the problem.”

These struggles though aren’t as difficult as her reactions to them are. She wants to shed the trappings of her life, but she also wants to relish in her life. As the old saying goes, she can’t have her cake and eat it too. But even wanting this, doesn’t make Nancy a bad character. What was the most disappointing were the hints we got to a darker side of Nancy. The desire to be Ana and the willingness she jumped into the friendship hinted at this darkness. If Huntley had explored this own inner darkness, Nancy would have been fascinating. Instead, she ended up feeling whiny and a bit naive.

Ana also had the potential to be compelling. But again, her motives were very see-through and predictable. Not just that her motives or actions were transparent, but she just wasn’t that shocking. Nothing she did was surprising. And the plot twist, wasn’t that twisted. I guessed what was happening within the first few interactions between the two women. It was disappointing that I was right.

While I didn’t hate reading The Goddesses, it just wasn’t as gripping or compelling as I would have liked. I wish it had more suspense to it, more shock, more creepiness. I turned every page waiting for more, but it never came. There was a lot of potential to really dive deep into the dark side of a twisted mind. Sadly, that potential was never reached for me.

Thank you BookSparks and Doubleday for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

 

A review: You Will Know Me

You Will Know MeYou Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I was younger, I took dance classes. I started ballet when I was three, adding tap and jazz along the way. I participated in recitals and private lessons and even competed. The world of competitive dance was too much for me, and while I did love dancing, I did not love everything that came with it.

As I read, You Will Know Me, I was reminded of that world all over again.

Of course, I was not as focused or determined as Devon was. Nor were my parents as single mindedly dedicated to dancing as hers were. But to say that this book is solely about competitive gymnastics is doing it a disservice.

Yes, the plot is centered around the Knox family. Specifically Devon and her pursuit of making the Olympic Gymnastic team. However, at the heart of this book is an examination of parenthood and marriage. So much so, that we really see this entire world through the eyes of the mother, Katie.

Both being a parent, and being married are complicated endeavors.

Katie and Eric seem to have a solid marriage. One built on compromise and partnership. One where they both juggle to make sure their children’s needs are met. After all, training to become an Olympic athlete takes dedication, hard work and single minded focus. From the entire family.

We see how this pursuit unites them against the world. And then we see how it also threatens to unravel them. “It doesn’t matter whose dream it is,” she said, “Just that it’s a dream.”

An accident brought gymnastics into their lives. One where maybe guilt and a feeling of responsibility hold the family hostage to the pursuit of this dream. Another accident threatens to unravel everything they’ve worked towards.

The use of accident in this book is very interesting to me. The accident that sparked gymnastics to be brought into their lives. The accident that shakes their gymnastic community are the most obvious. But while Katie struggles to keep her family together, the memory of the pregnancy and how that was an accident comes up more than once. That accident not only brought Devon into creation, but also cemented her bond to Eric. Moved him to propose and marry her.

Which I think is important to the character of Katie. She never had a dream. Never had goals. Her life sort of happened to her, was thrust upon her in a series of accidents. Things she didn’t necessarily choose, yet she now struggles to desperately hold on to.

“Remember that kind of wanting? That kind that’s just for yourself? And you don’t even have to feel guilty about it?” “Katie nodded and nodded and nodded, because it felt true even if she couldn’t name the thing she’d wanted.”

She latches onto the dream of marriage, and then the dream of parenthood, and then the dream of Olympic champion. She pursues them and drives towards them, without ever thinking if she really wanted them to begin with. Without understanding what that type of wanting felt like.

That is what threatens Katie at the core. When events begin to unravel the core of her marriage, and threaten to come between her relationship with her daughter, it is not understanding that level of drive and commitment that is hardest for Katie. She cannot understand it, so she cannot understand the decisions made in blind pursuit of it.

“This is what fearlessness looks like, Katie thought. What desire can do.”

We get glimpses of Eric and Devon, of what they see and what they feel and what they want. But only through Katie’s eyes. We see that she sees them as the same, multiple times, a team united, where she has to fight to be let in. The irony is she often excludes her own son, Drew, in her fight to be seen by Devon and Eric. She has to remind herself that the Knox family is made up of four members, not three. She is jealous of their closeness but it also scares her. Fear of being left out, of being left behind, or being not included.

This book is listed as a murder mystery, and at the heart, we do unravel a mystery. But it is also unraveling the mystery or life. They mystery of parenthood. The mystery of marriage.

“Married a long time, you think there will never be any surprises again, at least not those kinds. But you are wrong.”

Megan Abbott shows us that we can hide the truth about those we are closest with. We can be blind to everything but what we want to see. As Katie plunges deeper to solving the murder, the hard truths about her daughter and her husband become almost too much to bear.

But parenting is ferocious, the love you feel for your child primal and urgent. It becomes a matter of protecting them, even if you don’t understand them. “After all, who wouldn’t do anything for one’s child? Especially when that child worked harder and wanted something more than either of them ever had? Who wanted in ways they’d long forgotten how to want or had never known at all?”

The ending to this book felt anticlimactic. We solve the mystery or the murder, but the rest remains unsolved, open and unsatisfying. Maybe that’s because we can solve problems. We can figure out who did a crime. But how do we answer the bigger questions of life? What makes a good marriage? What makes a good parent? When is a dream enough?

“She hadn’t learned, no one had taught her – Katie and Eric hadn’t taught her – that the things you want, you never get them. And if you do, they’re not what you thought they’d be. But you’d still do anything to keep them. Because you’d wanted them for so long.”

This book won’t give you answers to those questions, but it will make you think about them. What lengths would you go for to protect your child? To help them achieve everything they dream of? What would you endure with your spouse? How far would you go for love? What would you forgive?

The answers may surprise you.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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