I’ve been wanting to write about Michelle Haimoff’s novel These Days Are Ours for a couple of months now, but I could never seem to find the right photograph to go with the post. Since Hailey, the heroine, lives on the Upper East Side, I first I tried shooting the book itself at my mother’s apartment, which is in that same neighborhood. Nope. Then I took the book with me on a trip downtown, and surreptitiously placed it on a table at B Bar, which is where a scene in the book takes place. Still no dice. For a while I kept the book in my bag and looked for the right setting. None came.
Then today I was scrolling through my pictures from fashion week, and I came across the photo above, which totally captured (for me) where Hailey is–figuratively, at least–in the novel. Like the subject of the photo, she’s in the middle of things, and there’s a spotlight (she thinks) highlighting all of her discomfort and insecurity. And because she is insecure and uncomfortable, Hailey can sometimes be insufferable, like a kid sister that won’t stop whining. You want to kill her. You want to tell her to get over herself. You want to tell her to grow up. Until you realize that the reason she’s pissing you off so much is because of how much you recognize yourself in her. Which is infuriating, and more than a little embarrassing.
Haimoff’s story evokes, with great accuracy, just how horrible that first year out of college is, how lost and incompetent and dislocated we feel. When you’re that age, of course, you firmly believed that your suffering makes you Unique and Special, and only later do you realize that everybody around you was also having a hard time, and that most people probably had no idea that you felt as shitty as you did.
As difficult as Hailey is to deal with, I couldn’t put Haimoff’s book down. The sentences are simple and have great rhythm, so they push you forward without you realizing it. Plus, every page brought with it memories from that time. The places where Hailey and her friends go are all the same places I went in my 20s. The more I was drawn into Hailey’s world, the more I started to care about her, so I was invested in finding out what happened, even when I knew she was about to do something stupid. By the end of the novel, I just wanted her to get out of her own way enough to be happy. Or at least a little bit grateful. And she was.