After falling in love with Where’d You Go, Bernadette? and in anticipation of Today Will Be Different (out on Oct. 4!), I recently picked up Maria Semple’s first book This One is Mine. I’ve said many times that books with romance as a large premise-point aren’t usually ones I got for, but I would blindly follow Maria Semple to the ends of the earth, so I was willing to make an exception. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Maria Semple was a writer on tv shows such as Arrested Development and Mad About You. Absolutely love her.
To the outsider, Violet Perry is living the dream. She’s married to a rock & roll manager, mother to an adorable baby named Dot, and has every luxury at her beck and call. But Violet is deeply unhappy. She spends her days driving around the city and visiting real estate open houses, prone to bursting into tears imagining the sadness of others.
In a parallel story, Sally, Violet’s sister-in-law, is on the hunt for a successful husband. She has her eye on an up-and-coming ESPN reporter, and is formulating a scheme to make him hers. She is deeply self-absorbed and has trouble seeing why she hasn't been proposed to yet at this point in her life.
Throughout the course of the novel, we see the lives of these women intertwine with men who may or may not be good for them, with situations they don’t know how to deal with, and ultimately with each other.
This One is Mine is a story about the consequences of our actions. This novel wasn’t what I expected at all. What starts as a light and energetic read, rapidly becomes very real. The reader soon sees a few innocent and selfish decisions snowball into multiple disastrous situations.
To give you a taste, the first of many snowball situations begins when Violet meets a former-alcoholic musician named Teddy Reyes. Meeting Teddy wakes something up within Violet and she soon finds herself cancelling yoga retreats with her husband and renting hotel rooms across the city. The affair that follows uproots the lives of herself, Teddy, her husband, and Sally.
Semple injected a pleasantly surprising amount of depth into these self-centered and complicated people. It takes a rare skill to make the reader fall for such a wide array of unlikeable characters. As each broken character grapples with the consequences of their decisions, they slowly uncover what happiness means to them (spoiler: it isn’t what they once believed).