“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” is the first line of a speech by MacBeth that is more recognizable for the ending versus the beginning, but that’s the point in Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin: all possibilities exist in tomorrow. There are, as Marx the actor says in this book, infinite possibilities, infinite lives. However, as also shown in this book, when tomorrow becomes today, there are only singular endings for us as we make decisions minute by minute.
Sadie and Sam meet in the hospital one day. Sam is there for surgeries and rehab on his foot, which has been crushed and mangled in a car accident; Sadie is there to visit her sister, who has been stricken with cancer. Sam, who has not said a word since the accident, responds to Sadie, and they bond over their love of video games. Thus begins a friendship that we get to develop over the next three decades.
They drift apart after their hospital visits, but meet again almost a decade later – a chance meeting on the subway. Both are attending Ivy League schools, and both are still keenly interested in gaming. They join forces and writer, then release, a game that becomes wildly popular. Although Sadie played a large part in the game, it’s Sam who gets the lion’s share of attention, although initially this does not bother Sadie – she’s more withdrawn than Sam – but as the book continues through their years, it’s apparent that it does, at least subconsciously.
While they’re developing their first game, Marx, an actor and Sam’s roommate, becomes Sadie’s friend as well, and now there are three of them, dealing with what we would today call a viral success. Their task now: write a followup that is also successful.
The dynamics of their relationships with one another follows what is probably the most realistic friendship arcs I’ve read. Friendship is not just besties to broken/fractured/lost to time and back to exactly the same deep friendship that existed before. As Heraclitus tells us, we do not step in the same river twice. As people change, so do their friendships.
Their second release suffers a bit from the sophomore effect, but is still well received. Initially, the three work toward their previous bond, but Sadie and Marx become closer than just friends, which puts a strain on that third bond with Sam. So, they fracture again, more deeply this time.
Then, tragedy strikes the three, which pushes that last friendship to a brittle, thin string and their company to be run by others. The last two part ways, meeting again in a virtual world and then once more in the real world before the book closes.
It’s somewhat of a long book, at just over 400 pages. That doesn’t seem so much once you’ve burrowed into the text, especially if you’re a gamer or even moderately interested in them. If you are neither a gamer nor particularly interested in video games, each page may feel a bit like trudging through mud. This book is absolutely thick with gaming, coding, actual games, game history, and other nerdly things. The writing may very well pull the hesitant reader through, however, as it’s engaging and intelligent, with point of view changes coupled with interesting structural choices throughout.
While I was not really a fan of the virtual world piece just before the end, the remainder of the book I found to be excellent. That minor ding aside, this is a five star read for the reader willing to invest the time.
Five out of five stars.
Thanks to Knopf Doubleday and NetGalley for the reading copy.