Litstack Recs | The Dead Fish Museum & Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

by Lauren Alwan & Sharon Browning

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin

Sharon’s Note: I was looking over all the books I had read last year, and, spurred on by all those “Best Of” lists that abound at the turning of the year, I wondered which I would pick as my own private Best Of. This was that book (with a few really close runners up).

A Book For Gamers and Book Lovers Alike

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.

Gabrielle Zevin

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. The accident also killed his mother, leaving him alone in the world.

The hospital has a game room 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.

Broken Bounds

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, male/female friendship but 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.

Relevant Story Topics

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.

—Sharon Browning

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