As avid readers we live for the next best book. The one that will force us to stay up far past bedtime hiding under the sheets to read by phone light so as not to wake our wives or husbands or children. The one that will make us cry so many times our eyes will sting. That will make us miss the characters, the world, that will make us think and speak in the narrator’s voice long after we’ve put the book down to enter into “real life.” Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (author of the Storied Life of AJ Fikry) is that book.
A throwback to the past in so many ways, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow’s setting is perhaps one of the most well-crafted elements of the book (and the entire book is well-crafted). Taking place in a variety of east coast and west coast towns across the span of the 1990s, Zevin’s characters remind us (or teach us if we are very young) what the world was like at the dawn of technology. Those characters: Sam, Sadie, and Marx are college kids when we first meet them. College kids with the dream to make a video game together.
Throughout the course of the novel, we follow mostly Sam and Sadie through their game-making venture as well as into their childhoods, and sometimes even the far-flung future. Zevin is a master of time and seamlessly weaves together a narrative of love, friendship, and art in a way that the reader feels as if we too are a character. Sure, we don’t know (yet) the thing in Sam’s past that makes him the way he is, but Zevin makes us feel as if we do know. The way she reveals elements of each character’s past and future is brilliant and enmeshes the reader so fully in the world that it’s hard to get out.
You’ll see there’s not much about plot in this review. And that’s intentional. The plot is also brilliant, but it’s everything else that’s mind-blowing, everything else that make me want to read the book again, and again, and again. But fine, a little taster of plot:
Sam and Sadie’s friendship (or lack of friendship) is the core of the novel, and through their relationship we explore not only their love of games, but also their past traumas, their relationships with their families and lovers, their artistic passions, and so much more. When we first meet our characters in college, Sadie is the only girl in her MIT game development class while Sam is a bored Math major at Harvard who dreams of doing something great. Okay, that’s it.
One of the pieces of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow that Zevin does so well (is there anything she doesn’t do well…?) is take something like playing video games and make it both accessible to those who don’t play and yet make it the ultimate experience for those who do. Even if you are a casual gamer like me, (someone who played the classics as a kid, who was a master among my friends and novice compared to my high scoring brother who held world records, who still picks up any new Animal Crossing or Zelda game) you will find so much comfort and joy and immersion in the virtual world’s Zevin creates. That’s because we don’t just hear about the games, we often get to play them, sometimes in depth, in a way in which we can see the pixelated characters and objects all around us.
Zevin explores relationships, art, ableism, classism, racism, sexism, and a multitude of other important topics that are often not discussed in everyday life let alone in books. She’s brilliant (did I say that?).
God, I need to just go read Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow again. While I do that, please preorder your copy from your local independent bookstore.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin is slated for released by Knopf on July 12, 2022. I can’t say it enough: preorder it now.