Print Edition: September 3, 2014
Lauren Graham’s first novel, Someday, Someday, Maybe is entertaining, engaging, and easy to breeze through. Perhaps best known for her role as Lorelei Gilmore on Gilmore Girls, Graham supplies a fast-paced narrative that had me reading the first 12 chapters in one sitting. Her insights on acting are interesting, her voice consistent and accessible, and these freshen up this take on an aspiring actress trying to break into the New York scene.
However, it’s not a surprising book. After the first few chapters certain patterns become obvious. For example, the build-up of doubt in the main character, Franny, was followed almost every time by a “surprise” success. Also, the reader is at once privy to the narrator’s stream of consciousness and aware of the holes in Franny’s understanding of the situation. By the end of the seventh chapter, I found myself half-hoping my predictions regarding the central romantic interests of the story and the arc of Franny’s professional success would be subverted by the end, but the novel did end as I expected.
The love interests in Franny’s life were not as dynamic as I would have liked. For example, where James’ motives in the beginning are somewhat ambiguous, he is moulded over the second half into a character the reader can openly dislike — he becomes flat. This seems like a missed opportunity to add depth and dimension to the ideological clash he and Franny have, which is tied to the main themes in the novel. By the end, he feels like too much of a slime-ball; because I didn’t trust him to begin with, I started taking everything he said and did with suspicion.
I most enjoyed reading scenes with Dan, but he isn’t really a strong dynamic character, either. He definitely fits into the mould of nice-guy-heroine-will-probably-end-up-with. In a way, Dan’s endearing qualities weaken the connection I have as a reader to Franny: her continued denial of the obvious keeps me page-flipping but ultimately distances me from her, and it’s because Dan seems to have few flaws.
In the interview with Graham included at the end of the novel, she says “it’s rare that difficult choices are all that clear. You’re never choosing between the right job and the wrong job, the right guy and the wrong guy.” Yet I wonder if this points to a flaw in the novel: the outcomes of Franny’s decisions feel obvious, the conflicts black-and-white — perhaps not to her but certainly to the reader.
Some of Franny’s central conflicts also lack weight. The tension of the approaching deadline Franny sets for herself is not built up enough for me. There’s a point where she says the deadline is “hurtling” toward her, and I definitely didn’t feel the urgency. I had almost forgotten it existed. Her alleged struggle with identity often feels a bit forced — maybe because her voice is so strong in the first person narrative, it’s hard to believe she doesn’t recognize the person looking back at her from the make-up mirror.
Many plot choices feel too convenient, which becomes especially apparent as threads are tied up toward the end. Of course she needs a date to the wedding and James can’t make it. Of course Dan gives her the solace she’s been searching for the whole novel in his monologue about her deceased mother’s choice of name for her. However, the fact that I wanted certain events to happen made their convenience bearable, and the second-to-last chapter wrapped things up tidily. The last chapter, a little over a page long, felt tacked on and unnecessary.
Ultimately, though, Someday, Someday, Maybe has two undeniable strengths holding it up. One is Graham’s willingness to experiment with ways of presenting information: she uses first-person narrative, dayplanner pages, phone messages, short scripted scenes, and even a call sheet to supply extra details and texture in Franny’s life. The second is the narrator’s quick delivery and engaging voice.