Book: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publication Date: July 5, 2022
In this exhilarating novel by the best-selling author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry two friends–often in love, but never lovers–come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.
On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.
Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.
Praise for Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin has been floating around on the Internet for months now. I’ve seen it on YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, and it’s been discussed in book Discord servers I frequent. Luckily, I grabbed a copy in Barnes & Noble’s last 50% off hardcovers sale, so it was patiently waiting for me when I was ready to read it. Let’s just say all that praise is justified because I fell in love with this book and its characters, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished it.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow starts with a chance encounter. Sam Maser is making his way through a subway station on his way back to his apartment after classes at Harvard when he sees Sadie Green. Sam hasn’t seen or spoken to Sadie in years, but he can’t just let this opportunity pass him by. Sam and Sadie have a lot of history, so he yells her name across the station. He manages to get Sadie’s attention, they chat, and before she runs to catch her train, Sadie hands Sam a game on a floppy disk. She tells Sam to play it, and her email is on the label.
Thus begins a decades long journey through the lives of two people who love each other even when they aren’t speaking. Sam plays Sadie’s game, and they decide to make a new one together. Along with Sam’s roommate, Marx, the two friends manage to make the instant blockbuster Ichigo and found a gaming studio. In the ensuing years, Sam and Sadie create more games, both together and separately. They also fight and make up, betray each other, and finally learn to love what they have together – a decades long friendship and unique ability to create art through collaboration.
The entire story is narrated in a nonlinear, omniscient manner. The narrator seems to know everything about the characters, including what they’re thinking. This knowledge plus the use of flashbacks and foreshadowing are used to great effect in developing the three main characters. It helped me as the reader understand what motivated Sam, Sadie, and Marx. It gave them depth and made them feel like real people that I truly cared about. It also led to some frustration. I frequently wanted to strangle Sam and Sadie when they did or said things that made a situation worse or when they refused to do or say anything to make it better. Again, this just made the story feel all the more realistic.
Speaking of Sam and Sadie being frustrating, oh boy were they. They’ve known each other since they were kids. Sadie’s sister was in the hospital for cancer treatment, and Sam was there for foot surgery and recovery after a horrible car accident. They first bond over a game of Mario in the hospital’s recreation room. However, Sadie betrays Sam’s trust, and they don’t speak for years. This is a common theme throughout their friendship, in fact. One of them says or does something that the other takes offense to, and the grudge-holding begins. By the end of the book, though, they both seem to have come to terms with the fact that relationships are work. There are ups and downs, and you don’t have to have a romantic relationship to love someone deeply.
It’s not that Sam didn’t want a romantic relationship with Sadie, but he let his fear of rejection rule him. So, Sadie moves on, and their friendship waxes and wanes throughout the book. It takes literally decades for both of them to learn that fear shouldn’t hold them back. It’s OK to be cautious, but fear of rejection or fear of emotional pain should not keep them from doing what they love.
In a similar vein, I feel like Sam’s and Sadie’s inability to forgive each other held back their development, not as characters but as people. Yes, I know they aren’t real people, but that’s just another way they were portrayed in such a realistic way. Neither of them would even try to empathize with the other. They just selfishly held on to these perceived slights and betrayals for literally years, and I think it hurt them both more than they realized. Marx tried to circumvent some of it, but in the end it took both of them growing up emotionally to realize how many years they’ve wasted hating one another.
In fact, this was easily the most frustrating part of reading this book. Sam and Sadie constantly blamed each other for their problems rather than taking responsibility for their own actions. Sure some of what one of them did may have affected the decisions of the other, but they weren’t solely to blame for how each chose to live their lives. If anything, Marx helped keep a lot of this to a minimum. Marx was easily the best character in the book. I don’t know how he kept from shaking Sam and Sadie in frustration sometimes.
This book deserves every bit of praise it gets. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to read it. It’s equal parts emotional, heart-breaking, and satisfying to read. The characters are rendered with such realism that I felt like I was reading about real people out there living their lives. I wish I could play the games they created, and I’d be lucky to experience such deep friendships as are on display in these pages.
I gave Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin five out of five stars. It’s an emotional journey through the lives of three special people who, even though they don’t really exist, I came to care about deeply. I keep running bits of this book through my head, and I’m sure I’ll re-read it multiple times. Just like the Shakespeare the title is lifted from, I think this book will be a classic that endures for years to come.
Have you read this book? What about Gabrielle Zevin’s other work? Let me know what you thought in the comments!
One thought on “Review: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin”
I’m looking forward to reading this one. Great review.