‘This is the story of Sam and Sadie. It’s not a romance, but it is about love.
When Sam catches sight of Sadie at a crowded train station one winter morning he is catapulted back to the brief time they spent playing together as children. Their unique spark is instantly reignited.
What comes next is a story of friendship and rivalry, fame and creativity, betrayal and tragedy, perfect worlds and imperfect ones. And, ultimately, our need to connect: to be loved and to love.
A thoroughly entertaining and engaging tale of friendship which, whilst I enjoyed the reading experience, does not quite justify the social media hype that it has received.
What I Liked
- The gaming references – I loved the nostalgia that it generated and the descriptions of the games Sam and Sadie created
- The lack of a forced and awkward romance between Sam and Sadie
- The depiction of Sam on the ace spectrum
- The positive depiction of race: Jewish, Korean, Japanese cultures creating a real synthesis and energy.
What Could Have Been Different
- Plotting could have been tauter: the second half of the novel seemed a little… meandering?
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is a novel that has won plaudits, praise and Goodreads Choice Award. For many readers, it has been lauded as their best book of 2022. Even so, there was something I found off-putting and the book kept slipping down my tbr list. Maybe the clunky title. Maybe the imagery of the cover – the iconic Japanese wave feels too close up, the text colours and font too artificial against the wave.
Obviously, I recognise the allusion to gaming in the font, and the importance of the Japanese wave to the novel and to the games that Sam and Sadie produce. It still jarred for me, though.
Anyways… this is very much Sam Masur and Sadie Green’s story. We meet them as university students, their friendship having already been formed and tested before then. The novel alternates between flashbacks that flesh out that backstory, and the main narrative that follows them creating computer games and founding a gaming company.
Sam had certainly had his trauma in the flashback sections: his mother – a Korean actress and model – had been killed in a car accident that had shattered Sam’s foot. Whilst recovering and being reconstructed physically, Sam finds solace in gaming, in immersing himself in worlds that were maybe more manageable and less traumatic than the real one. Whilst there, he meets Sadie who is visiting her sister recovering from cancer. They bond over classic simplistic games of the 1980s such as Oregon Trail and Mario.
I actually found Zevin’s use of the flashbacks very well judged and organic, structurally, and powerful emotionally. The trials his mother had in the entertainment industry – somehow either too Asian or not ethnic enough – and her battling toxic sexualisation whilst knowing where her story was headed was heart wrenching.
The friendship breaks over a misunderstanding and Sadie ends up in a very unprofessional relationship with her married teacher at college. By the time she and Sam meet each other again, she is in the midst of that complicated relationship which is heading to a breakup and a severe bout of depression. She had, however, been making games for her college course and it is through those that she and Sam again reconnect.
Over one summer, supported by Marx – Sam’s Japanese roommate and friend who becomes their producer – they make one stand-out game together and manage to sell it making enough to create their own gaming company. And Ichigo sounded like a fantastic game! One thing Zevin’s novel boasts is a real flair for coming up with credible ideas for games. I believe there is a film being made of the novel… but who is making these games real?
Zevin gives their friendship a lot of tests in the novel: Sam’s impoverished upbringing and debt conflicts with Sadie’s relative affluence; their game needs a game engine and Sam encourages Sadie to ask her teacher, to whom she returns; the publicity surrounding the game puts strain on them; Sam’s foot eventually needs amputating and he chooses not to explain his pain but simply to keep away; other games are less well received; Sadie and Marks end up in a relationship.
Zevin never suggested that Sam and Sadie had any romantic or sexual entanglement or attraction – although they do on occasion ask why they never got together. Zevin makes it clear that the friendship between them is an experience of love – a term that Sadie is comfortable using, and Sam is not, even when he acknowledges it. We do load that one word with so many meanings, dont we? I do think the novel would have felt cheaper if it had degenerated into just another will-they-won’t-they romance.
One thing I did love about the novel was its inclusiveness and representation. Race was not an issue in the novel but Sam felt authentically Korean and I loved the way that that background mixed with Sadie’s Jewish heritage and Marks’ Japanese upbringing to create something new and energised and creative. Sam did seem to me to be somewhere on the ace spectrum – and is described within the novel by other characters as somewhere on the autistic spectrum – and same sex marriage becomes an issue in one of the MMORPGs that Sam develops. The novel felt like a very positive example of representation, a celebration that people of all identities are valuable and wonderful human beings.
Tragedy does strike in the novel – and was movingly done – along with the old debate about violence (and politics) in gaming. And, for me, the second half of the story loses focus and somehow unravels. The narrative becomes meandering. Without giving too much away, I found some of Sam’s actions, which others praised as romantic, more than a little creepy! Building a game world for someone? Okay. Populating that world with a range of your own avatars gaslighting that other person…? Not so much.
So in conclusion, whilst I found the novel thoroughly engaging and I loved the time I spent with Sam and Sadie and Marx and the rest of the characters – and especially their games, which I would definitely play! – I do not think it quite lived up to its hype. Would I read another Zevin? Absolutely. Will I rush to catch up on her back catalogue? No.
GABRIELLE ZEVIN is a New York Times best-selling novelist whose books have been translated into thirty-nine languages.
Her tenth novel, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, was an instant New York Times Best Seller, a Sunday Times Best Seller, and a selection of the Tonight Show’s Fallon Book Club. Tomorrow was Amazon.com’s #1 Book of the Year, Time Magazine’s #1 Book of the Year, a New York Times Notable Book, and the winner of both the Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction and the Book of the Month Club’s Book of the Year. Following a twenty-five-bidder auction, the feature film rights to Tomorrow were acquired by Temple Hill and Paramount Studios. Zevin is currently writing the screenplay.
Plot / Pace:
14 July 2022
5 thoughts on “Book Review: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, Gabrielle Zevin”
I’ve seen so much about this book around, but that was the best, balanced review I think I’ve read. Thank you!
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Thank you so much for your kind words!
I want to read this one, but I’ve been unsure of it. I had a friend say she couldn’t connect with the characters. I am a little worried about the flashbacks because they don’t always work for me, but you make them sound interesting. Nice review.
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Thanks… I did find the backstory well done, although the characters could have just talked about things more! It would have solved a lot of the conflict… but rendered half the page count redundant!
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