The basics: These Days Are Ours follows Hailey, a recent college graduate, in New York City in the spring of 2002. She and her privileged high school friends are in various states of employment, but they're also all still processing 9/11 and expecting another terrorist attack at any time. Hailey searches for a job, a life, a sense of belonging, and a sense of purpose.
My thoughts: As I said the last time I rated a book 6 stars out of 5, "About once a year, I encounter a book that works for me on every level...It's a novel I immediately wanted to stick in people's hands and say "read this book." These Days Are Ours is the fourth such book since I started blogging. (The others are American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, Room by Emma Donoghue, and State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.)
Even though I enjoyed this novel from the beginning, Haimoff's writing snuck up on me. This novel unfolds both slowly and quickly as the reader gets to know Hailey. There is a hopefulness and youthfulness to her initially as she imagines her future life with her crush: "And our kid—kids—would ask us what we were whispering about. And we’d say, “Nothing.” And the kids would roll their eyes because we always had these private jokes." I was transported back to my early twenties, a time in which I imagined many possible lifes for myself.
Hailey also has a sense of honesty and tragi-comedy I adored: "The thing that would be awesome about getting blown up by terrorists is that everyone would think we had all this unrealized potential." While she could come across as flippant, instead Haimoff reminded me of those unsettled feelings post-9/11 as we adjusted into what our new normal would become.
Part of what I love about Hailey is how she reminded me of the significance encounters have when you're 22:
"Okay, okay. But the point is, we ended up going on a weird walk together for seltzer and then eating macaroons on his roof and then having sex.”
“That’s the most Jewish thing I’ve ever heard in my life. You should call your grandmother right now and tell her this story. You had seltzer and macaroons and sex with a Jewish future lawyer. On Passover."Haimoff couples the earnestness of Hailey's voice with her emotional rawness beautifully. As a reader I never felt dismissive of Hailey's feelings, as I increasingly do with coming of age novels. Instead, Haimoff reminded me of those years and transported my emotions back to 2002.
Perhaps one of the reasons this novel resonates so deeply with me is Hailey and her friends are around the age I was in the spring of 2002. The pop culture and media references were spot on. Haimoff so captured that time, both in the time of 2002 and the state of being 22. The combination is particularly poignant, as the uncertainty of post-college days pairs beautifully with the uncertainty of the post-9/11 months: "Most sadness isn’t debilitating; it just makes regular life seem a little stupid."
The more I read, the more slowly I read. I began to savor Hailey's sentiment and cared less about the ending than her journey. I highlighted more obsessively as I read, and I ended up with 35 highlighted passages and almost as many notes. If I could change one thing about the reading experience, I would read this novel listening to a Spotify playlist composed of all the songs mentioned in this book. The next time I read it, I will.
Favorite passage: "It was that undefined pause between the past and the future that had no other significance other than us experiencing it together."
The verdict: These Days Are Ours is a refreshing, smart, accomplished, ambitious, intimate and beautiful novel of hope, fear, longing, sadness, and life. It's a novel I will give to many, many people this holiday season because Michelle Haimoff has captured the essence not only of my generation, but of early adulthood and post-9/11 New York. It's a novel I will re-read in the years to come. It's a novel I will share with my children and with my nieces and nephews to help them understand what it was like.
Rating: 6 out of 5
Length: 304 pages
Publication date: February 28, 2012
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