Shiny Happy Book Club: "These Days Are Ours"

Confession: I don’t read nearly as many books as I’d like to. In theory, I’m an avid reader. I’m a fiction writer at heart, bookstores are second only to candy stores in terms of hours-I-could-spend-browsing and the stack of novels next to my bed looks like an extremely perilous game of Jenga. But if I’m honest, I’ll admit that lately, TV comes first. It’s so pleasant as a pre-bed ritual. It’s a soothing accompaniment to chores around the apartment. Plus my ever-multiplying DVR queue gives me actual stress unless I’m constantly watching and deleting. And hey, I work in TV, so it’s sort of, like, productive to have it on all the time, right???

But every so often, my books whimper and whine and call to me, and occasionally I’ll crack one open and read a few pages and realize I don’t really want to stop and then I’ll devour the whole thing, declare myself a reader again, and force this mind-blowing book upon everyone who crosses my path for the next month. You, my friends, are about to cross my path. Here is what you need to be reading: These Days Are Ours, by Michelle Haimoff.

The author’s first novel, These Days Are Ours, takes place six months after September 11th – but don’t let that freak you out. This is not a “9/11″ book. You are not about to watch United 93 in the form of a 250-page novel. Rather, Haimoff focuses on a group of friends in their early 20s struggling to find themselves and come of age in a world that has just been rocked to its core. Our protagonist, Hailey – hilarious, thoughtful and woefully jobless post-college – moves back in with her parents and spends her days hanging out with the friends she’s known since high school. What’s so interesting about this book is that Haimoff takes on the undeniably difficult transition period of that first year after college and places it in the midst of a global crisis. New York City is as much a character in this novel as Hailey and her friends. The shifting ground of their personal lives is mirrored by the city that is both changed and unchanged by the events of 9/11.

Another part of what I loved about this novel is that the writing is painfully honest. There wasn’t a single line of dialogue or description that didn’t feel utterly real to me; at times I felt like I was reading someone’s diary. Hailey’s disillusionment and distraction are relatable to anyone who’s ever endeavored to figure out what they want to do with their lives, or ever found themselves pushed out of one stage of life without feeling quite ready for the next. Her voice is addicting in its truthfulness. She worries and analyzes but never loses her sharp, wry sense of humor. Pretty soon after I started reading, I realized I couldn’t get her out of my head in the best possible way. And of course, a novel about 20-something girls has to include a few love interests. There’s something unbelievably raw and real about Hailey’s possibly-unrequited obsession with her friend Brenner. I found myself cringing in a this-is-so-me kind of way throughout.

Because of the subject matter and clean, straightforward prose, this novel will inevitably draw comparisons to the work of authors like Bret Easton Ellis. The text is rife with insight into the lives of the New York City elite and all bars, restaurants, stores and clothing labels are referred to with their actual names, all of which serves to draw the reader deeper into Hailey’s world. She doesn’t feel the need to explain everything; she just brings you along, and that is part of what makes reading this novel such an engrossing experience.

Above all, there’s an impressive balance of wit and heart at work here, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t tear up a few times. These Days Are Ours is definitely one of the funnier, more poignant and more compelling novels I’ve read in a long time.

Pick up a copy here!

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