Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin
Ever read a book where you knew absolutely nothing about the environment surrounding the main characters, but you loved it anyway because those characters were so wonderful that they transcended your lack of knowledge? Enter Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow.
And if you happen to be a gamer (even a casual one), this book is going to absolutely captivate you.
Sadie and Sam meet when they are eleven years old (sometime in the 1980s), in a hospital where Sadie’s family is visiting her sister, who is in treatment for cancer, and where Sam is in rehab for injuries sustained in a car accident, including his foot being broken in 27 places, reducing it to “a flesh bag with bone chips in it”. The accident also killed his mother, leaving him alone in the world.
The hospital has a game room for sick kids with a Nintendo console, and the two bond over Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt, and shared experiences with other games such as Oregon Trail and Donkey Kong. The hospital friendship lasts for months; when they’re trading off the single controller or the keyboard, they’re just two kids, not kids caught up in tragic and painful circumstances.
Of course, a misunderstanding severs the friendship, and the story would have been poignant enough had it ended there. But a decade later, Sam glimpses Sadie in a subway station; he’s attending Harvard in mathematics and she’s one of the few females at MIT studying computer science. In the few minutes between trains, they reconnect and Sadie passes Sam a 3.25 inch disk with the game she’s working on, and from there a lifelong relationship – personal and professional – forms.
This is a book about friendship; deep friendship, specifically male/female friendship but one that remains platonic. Intellectual, social, emotional, yes. One full of passion and conflict, artistry and industry, of letting someone close yet holding them apart. Of fears hidden under unfounded assumptions, and triumphs that can only come from a struggle of diverse visions collaborating to create something unique and beautiful.
The book follows Sadie and Sam as they begin and build a game, then a gaming company, then a gaming empire. The gaming component is incredible, showing how different creative approaches can be equally valid, the complexity involved, and the challenges in making an artistic yet commercially viable game. It’s a very involving backdrop. But it’s just a backdrop. The characters are what drives this narrative – not just Sadie and Sam, but also Marx, Sam’s roommate and later a producer in the company; Dov, Sadie’s on-again/off-again professor/mentor/lover; the different family members that surround Sadie and Sam, both present and in memory; many key players that might seem minor but fill out the narrative in a very fulfilling way.
And the story is relevant in other ways; topics such as alienation, multi-culturalism, gender inequality (especially in male-dominated industries), emotional manipulation, even cultural appropriation, appear and affect the narrative, but again, as a real-world backdrop, not as a means to an end but rather the organic flow of intertwined lives.
Simply put, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is an amazing book. You are not only going to cheer (and occasionally jeer) for Sadie and Sam, but you are going to believe them, and believe in them. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for encompassing art or outright entertainment; just like the best of games, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow gives you both.