BookBrowse Reviews Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

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Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

A novel

by Gabrielle Zevin

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin X
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
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  • Published:
    Jul 2022, 416 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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About this Book



Two brilliant, ambitious young people navigate the ups and downs of a long friendship as they come of age along with the video game industry.

It's been more than 20 years since Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, but his novel featuring intricate intersections of friendship and identity set against a backdrop of the burgeoning comic book industry has stuck with me over those two decades. Gabrielle Zevin's novel Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is very different from Chabon's in many ways, but its portrait of a long and complicated friendship that evolves alongside the video game industry is one that I suspect will stay with me for a long time, too.

Sam and Sadie first meet in a children's hospital waiting room when they are preteens living in very different Los Angeles neighborhoods. Sadie's there because her older sister Alice is undergoing chemotherapy; Sam's there because he's been in a bad car accident requiring numerous reconstructive surgeries on his foot (he's also recovering from severe emotional trauma, but that's not revealed until later). Sadie, it turns out, is the first person who's gotten Sam to speak in months — and what gets him talking is the shared language of video games. It's the late 1980s (most likely, Zevin is cagey about providing specific time references, most of which are hinted at through details of video game releases and other pop culture references), and Sadie and Sam gleefully geek out over The Oregon Trail (see Beyond the Book), King's Quest IV, and the original Zelda.

They have a falling out, but Sam and Sadie reunite years later after a chance meeting on the other side of the country, in the Harvard Square subway station. Sam's studying math (a bit indifferently) at Harvard, and Sadie's pursuing computer programming at MIT. The two put their differences behind them and decide to spend the upcoming summer building their own game, with the support of Sadie's professor/boyfriend and Sam's charismatic roommate Marx. The game, an enigmatic adventure quest called Ichigo, becomes a massive and somewhat unexpected success, and the two of them, along with Marx, move back to LA and found their own gaming company. Their friendship continues to develop in tandem with the ever-evolving video game industry. When both love and tragedy complicate the picture, Sam and Sadie's creative partnership threatens to collapse again — but this time, the stakes are higher than they were when they were children.

Zevin is a long-time gamer, and her knowledge of what draws people to video games and what goes into making them rings true. She understands that game-playing, and game-making, are a kind of storytelling, and perhaps that is what draws her to write about this world. What Sadie, Sam and their creative partners do feels not that different from the worldbuilding that novelists undertake (minus all the programming know-how). The ways she captures the team's creative process and their desire to strive for the best, most coherent and engaging stories they can bring to the screen, feel pure and true.

Zevin skillfully incorporates issues of identity and belonging into the novel, from Sadie's discomfort and frustration at being one of only a handful of women in her program at MIT to Sam's lifelong struggles with his disability. Both Sam and Marx are mixed-race Asian characters whose identity shapes their lives, their careers and the products they create. Their games also engage thoughtfully and purposefully with questions of gender and sexuality, in ways that have surprising — and in one case tragic — consequences.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a love letter to video gaming, for sure; it's also an affectionate ode to Los Angeles, and to youthful idealism, and to literature (Sadie's first class project video game is based on Emily Dickinson's poetry; a later game offers a blood-soaked homage to Shakespeare). At times, the novel is almost heartbreakingly sad, but it's also a moving testament to the power of friendship, specifically the kind of friendship that can arise between two people who challenge each other, who collaborate and create beautiful things together. Sadie and Sam are not lovers in the traditional sense, but theirs is a love story, one where the stakes are every bit as high as a romance, and where both hurt and healing are very real. Above all else, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, as the title suggests, is about the power of new beginnings, of the hope that's inherent in starting over, and how stories, games, and the best kinds of friendships can give us infinite new lives.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl

This review first ran in the August 3, 2022 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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Beyond the Book:
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