This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub
Published by Riverhead Books
Publication date: May 17, 2022
Genres: Book Clubs, Fiction, Coming-of-age, Contemporary
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I’ve had mixed success with time travel novels this summer (I’m looking at you, One Italian Summer) so I was a bit hesitant to pick up This Time Tomorrow. What swayed me is that it’s by Emma Straub, whose last novel All Adults Here was a favorite of mine. Thankfully, while I may not have loved everything about this father-daughter novel I did appreciate the relationship and how it played out against the element of time.
Alice is about to turn 40. Her life is fine, but is it her best life? Her father’s declining health and recent hospitalization has led her to question both of their lives. Her father raised her by himself after her mother took off for California when Alice was 6. His parenting style and attitude towards life was fairly hands-off and untraditional, both for Alice and for himself. He has bad habits which are at the root of his current health issues and she wonders if her aimlessness, her inability to commit or finish things the result of never having been pushed? Of never having done normal family things? And how well does she even know her affable, but somewhat removed father?
With all of this swirling around her Alice goes to bed on the eve of her birthday and awakens in her childhood bedroom. She’s 16 again—a horror I’d hate to relive, but thankfully, This Time Tomorrow is not a cringe-y rehash of the worst of high school. Instead, it’s a more balanced view:
Her vision was clear, but it was coming from two different feeds. Alice was herself, only herself, but she was both herself then and herself now. She was forty and she was sixteen.
Straddling two worlds could be precipitous or tedious, but Straub twists the plot in unexpected ways and while at first it seems like the same old ‘revisit the past and change it to make the present better’ it slowly shifts into something quite different and deeper. There’s still wish fulfillment in Alice’s choices, but Straub handles it in a way that feels real not exaggerated. In doing so, she reveals tender layers in the father-daughter relationship that resonate.
What a very long time one had to be an adult, after rushing through childhood and adolescence.
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