Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
Published by Knopf Publishing Group
Publication date: July 5, 2022
Genres: Book Clubs, Fiction, Contemporary, Literary
Gaming has never been my thing, aside from a brief flirtation with Centipede when I was working alone as a bartender and could play for free during the slow hours. For this reason, I had no interest in reading, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, a novel about two gamers. The premise of nerdy guy meets nerdy girl and they create video games left me cold. Yes, there was supposed to be a relationship component, but I still wasn’t interested. BIG MISTAKE. Thankfully, when it comes to books I happily admit when I’m wrong. It doesn’t matter what you know (or don’t) about electronic games or your opinion of them, this is a story powered less by technology and more by the full spectrum of human emotions.
Sadie and Sam meet in a hospital when they’re both 11 and bond over a love of video games. A friendship begins and ends in L.A., before they even get to high school, but they connect again later in Boston where Sadie attends M.I.T for computer programming and Sam studies Mathematics at Harvard. The passion for games hasn’t changed so rather than graduate they take time off from education and end up creating a wildly successful new game. But in Tomorrow and Tomorrow the virtual worlds they create are far less compelling than the lives they live in the process.
The issues that brought them together as children are the kind that linger and as such make their presence known throughout Tomorrow and Tomorrow. For Sam, it is a foot deeply damaged in an accident that, despite multiple surgeries, never fully heals, continues to decline, and inhibits his movements. It colors his perceptions, filling him with a ferocious desire to seem invulnerable.
He didn’t want them to see him as weak, even though that was how he felt. Weak, frail, alone, exhausted. He was tired of his body, of his unreliable foot, which couldn’t even handle the slightest expression of joy. He was tired of having to move so carefully, of having to be so careful.
For Sadie, the crisis is one of confidence. Her time at the hospital was spent staying out of the way while her sister was treated for leukemia. This left her bifurcated between being more comfortable in the shadows, but always needing confirmation of her worth. In the tech world of the 90s, although she’s a creative and programming genius, she lacks the voice to stand her ground. Later she wrestles with the feelings of being manipulated and/or tamping down her ambition for Sam as he was perceived as the de facto writer of their first game when it was hers. These resentments compound themselves with her own neuroses, making her relatable to every professional woman out there even as the urge to shake her (carefully, as a friend) grows with each passing page. She’s right, it’s real, but it’s not everything. Push back, don’t run.
Into this potent brew of talent, insecurity, and ambition, author Gabrielle Zevin adds Marx, one of the best characters in Tomorrow and Tomorrow. He’s Sam’s roommate in college. A wealthy handsome, fun-loving young man who manages Sam’s vulnerabilities about money and ill health without making him feel indebted. Marx provides the funds for Sam and Sadie to make their first game and becomes the calm to their storms, the pragmatist who leaves them to create.
Through gentle excavation Zevin brings forth the inner lives of Sadie, Sam, and Marx. Each is fully formed, flawed, wonderful. The purity and depth of their friendship, with all its messy squabbles, truth telling, pain, and the sense of feeling truly known and then completely misunderstood is a gift to read. This intensity reminded me of another novel I loved, A Little Life, but without the extreme trauma. Both are immersive stories of friendship and coming-of-age. But while A Little Life begins and ends in darkness Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is an incandescent portrayal of abiding friendship and love.
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