DAY, by Michael Cunningham. Read by Julianne Moore.
Michael Cunningham’s “Day” is a gracefully restrained portrait of domestic yearning and claustrophobia, following a single family’s trajectory before, during and after the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Shifting among the perspectives of Isabel; her husband, Dan; and her brother, Robbie, who lives in the attic of the couple’s Brooklyn brownstone, the narrative takes place across three years, offering glimpses into their lives on the same April day in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
Cunningham’s poignant observations of the urban landscape around them — early-season daffodils, the blue neon sign illuminating a shoe repair shop, an unlikely owl perched on a tree outside Isabel’s home — capture an endangered neighborhood idyll that quietly echoes the global cataclysm.
Who better to channel this languid melodrama than the luminous Julianne Moore, who portrayed the repressed 1950s housewife Laura Brown in the film adaptation of Cunningham’s Pulitzer-winning 1998 novel “The Hours”? Here Moore’s voice, a taut braid of fragility and strength, embodies the “sacred suspension” of family, its delicate web of marital and platonic bonds.
Moore expresses the tensions in this unusual triangle by imbuing each one with world-weary emotional acuity. Poised to evict Robbie in order to give their growing children separate bedrooms, Isabel and Dan can no longer avoid the unspeakable truth that Robbie’s friendship is the glue that has kept their marriage intact.
The listener is hooked by the compassion Moore exudes for these characters, who fumble through texts and unsent letters, compose unsuccessful love songs and use Instagram to imagine better lives without fully expressing the frustration and love they feel for one another.
DAY | By Michael Cunningham | Read by Julianne Moore | Random House Audio | 6 hours, 37 minutes