The worst thing about the NYPL is that just because a book is available in Ebook form doesn’t mean it’s available in Kindle form. I should probably be grateful for the public-sector-meets-private-sector partnership that allows me to follow a link from the library’s website right to my Amazon account, but after trying for days to find a light read for a weekend upstate I was getting frustrated. Nothing I looked at was immediately available for my Kindle.
I learned about Lauren Graham’s 2013 novel Someday, Someday, Maybe a week ago, after a mini Gilmore Girls binge. Reading fiction written by actors is an interesting pastime – I enjoy seeing what else is going on in their heads. I must have been fated to read Someday, Someday, Maybe because in a last ditch attempt to find a book for my upstate getaway, I looked to see if the NYPL had a copy. It was not only available in Ebook format, but in Kindle form, and without a wait-list. Being a reader who can’t afford to buy everything she reads is a constant battle, so these moments feel like victories.
Someday, Someday, Maybe is a novel that falls into a very hard-to-shelve category. The characters in their late 20’s keep it from being a YA novel, but the first person narrative and light writing style makes it more stylistically comparable to that genre. It’s a good-hearted and funny story with no pretension. Graham is surprisingly talented at setting a vivid and textured scene without an abuse of descriptors. It was an easy novel to fall into, not because of exceptional writing or a really unique plot, but because of the simple, warm setting and story that enveloped you.
The novel is set in New York during the early 90’s. The New York of my childhood, the main characters are part of the Park Slope renaissance, back when you could actually rent two floors of a brownstone. Little references to things like the 92nd St Y and Watchtower give the setting a richness that proves Graham has had a long familiarity with the city. Graham’s characters live in a less self-aware New York – a city populated with real people instead of the jaded, self-deprecative characters of modern depictions of the city. (ie: Girls.)
Someday, Someday, Maybe is the story of a young woman Franny, who grew up somewhere just-outside-the-city. Like many from Jersey or Connecticut, she is familiar with the city while still being a little in awe. After college, instead of following her boyfriend to law school halfway across the country, Franny moves to Brooklyn with hopes of becoming an actress. She and her boyfriend make an agreement – she gives herself three years to try, and if it doesn’t work out she will consider moving to be with him in Chicago.
It’s a story about late bloomers, as Franny and her roommate Dan (who is trying to become a screenwriter) struggle to pull their lives back together after post-college career changes. A few of the supporting characters lack depth, but Franny and Dan are beautifully developed. Franny is a girl whose nature keeps working against herself. She’s always pessimistic because she is too much of a realist to believe in her own dreams. Dan has disappointed his family and has lost his drive. The two of them, along with their third roommate Jane (a PA working nights on a feature) build a snapshot of the film and theater industry of that time.
The book is sprinkled with doodles and pages from Fanny’s planner, as well as all the voicemails she receives. Lauren Graham uses the voicemails cleverly, as messages from Franny’s father, her agent, and sort-of-boyfriends stack up unanswered, reminding her that she’s running out of time. Her father asks her to come home and go back to teaching. She almost does. Graham also plays around with love triangles and the difference between exciting, comfortable, and boring relationships. A conversation between Franny and Dan on the improbability of a perfect love triangle is the highlight of the whole book for me.
What I found most refreshing about Someday, Someday, Maybe was how decidedly ungritty it is. Franny gets drunk sometimes and smokes cigarettes, but she’s never self destructive. She loves her family and cares about her friends. She turns down a topless role and she worries that she might be leading a boy on with her friendship. Instead of giving into the many temptations of New York, Franny has a very solid mind and makes relatively good decisions. It’s not the story of Girl vs City, but Girl vs Self. In little ways it reminded me of Caitlin Moran’s How to Build a Girl (2014).
Like Moran’s novel, Someday, Someday, Maybe is not actually about the author, but the story was inspired by certain real events. Lauren Graham lived in New York during the 90’s and she probably shared a lot of experiences with her characters. This gives the novel a strong foundation in reality, though it is still fiction and not biographical.
Lauren Graham’s debut novel has weak points. It could have done with being a bit longer, to give the supporting characters a little more room to breathe. And the present tense is completely unnecessary – Franny’s first person narration could have worked just as well in a more traditional past tense. But even so, it’s a slow paced, romantic story and very easy to fall into. I didn’t want it to end. If you are exhausted by the self-important Bushwick of a Buzzfeed generation, a visit to Park Slope on the rise in a pre-9/11 and pre-hipster New York might be just what you need.
Sarah V Diehl