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Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow summary

Gabrielle Zevin

A Novel

3.6 (52 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow is a captivating novel by Gabrielle Zevin that explores the meaning of life, the fleeting nature of memories, and the enduring power of love amidst a society grappling with technological advancement and moral decay.

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    Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
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    Sam and Sadie: a platonic love story

    It’s Los Angeles, 1987 and two kids, both eleven years old, are sitting on a sofa and playing Super Mario Bros. So far, so typical. But these two kids – their names, by the way are Sam Masur and Sadie Green – aren’t sitting in a living room. They’re in a hospital games room. Sadie is visiting her older sister Alice, who is 13 and has leukemia. Sam, as the cage-like contraption around his foot attests, is recovering from devastating injuries sustained in a car crash that also killed his mother. Sadie has just wandered into the games room to find Sam in the middle of rescuing Princess Peach. A keen gamer herself, Sadie strikes up a conversation, and soon the two are amiably gaming and chatting.

    This is more significant than it might appear. As a nurse later informs Sadie, Sam has spoken to no-one since the accident – no-one except Sadie. Instead, he’s been absorbed in gameplay and in drawing intricate mazes on paper in the style of M.C Escher. The nurse asks Sadie if she’d be willing to meet Sam in the games room regularly. Sadie’s mum reminds Sadie that she needs to do community service for her upcoming bat mitzvah – these visits to Sam could count towards that.

    Sadie and Sam spend nearly a whole summer together, getting to know each other, crafting elaborate inside jokes and, always, gaming. But when Sam discovers Sadie has been using him as a community service project – even though Sadie has long since begun to consider Sam not only a friend but her best friend – he is furious. He stops speaking and the two fall out of touch.

    In their twenties, though, they bump into each other at a train station. Impulsively, Sadie presses a floppy disk into Sam’s hands. It contains a prototype of a video game she has been working on. Sam, and his roommate Marx, play the game. In fact, they stay up all night playing it. By the time he has finished playing, Sam’s mind is made up. He and Sadie Green need to be making video games together.

    The first game they make is called Ichigo. Here’s the premise: a child (the child’s gender is unstipulated in the game) is playing on a beach when a freak wave washes them out to sea. The aim of the game is to help the child, named Ichigo, navigate back to shore. Sadie is artistic and rigorous – she decides that the game’s aesthetic should be influenced by Hokusai’s famous woodblock prints of waves, and she painstakingly programs game sequences. Sam is, unlike Sadie, a self-taught programmer. He’s the first to say when something isn’t working, and knows when to cut corners instead of pursuing an elusive perfectionism. When they work well together, Sadie and Sam work incredibly well. Ichigo is a breakout hit.

    But Sam and Sadie don’t always work well together. The novel courses their development as creative partners and co-founders of their studio, Unfair Games. They, and their studio, have creative and commercial successes. But there are rifts and creative differences, too. Sadie’s work can become self-indulgent without Sam to reign it in; Sam pushes Sadie to make decisions based on profits and not on creative vision. Sam is more comfortable with public speaking than Sadie and soon becomes the public face of the studio – but Sadie worries this means Sam gets more credit for their successes, and Sam resents the amount of public-facing work he has to do.

    Through it all, Sam and Sadie deal with personal, as well as professional difficulties. Sadie struggles with bouts of depression, and grieves the loss of her partner. Sam never fully recovers from the car accident – his foot is painfully and permanently disabled – and he struggles to let others into his life. But despite their frequent fights and protracted disagreements, Sadie and Sam have each other. Their friendship is fraught, and, at times, non-existent. But the pull to keep collaborating means they are always in each other's orbits.

    Sam and Sadie are friends, never lovers, and there’s almost no hint of romantic tension between the two – an unusual, and refreshing, literary dynamic. By centering the story on this relationship, Zevin asks us to reframe our thinking about which relationships are central to our lives. An ongoing creative partnership, this book seems to suggest, can be just as meaningful, just as fulfilling, and just as dramatic as a romantic partnership. In fact, as Sadie tells Sam towards the end of the book, lovers are common, but “true collaborators are rare.” 

    Multiple episodes in the book emphasize that, when Sam and Sadie collaborate they are greater than the sum of their parts. For example, following a disagreement, they decide to design a game with two separate but connected storylines. Though they are nominally working together, the two are hardly on speaking terms, and each works with a separate team to complete their half of the game. The game is a flop, creatively and commercially. As much as they might disagree about their collaborative projects, as much as they might be frustrated with each other on a personal level, each brings out the best in each other and tempers the other’s worst influences. It’s no surprise that the novel ends with Sadie handing Sam a hard drive which contains the beginnings of a new game.

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    What is Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow about?

    Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow (2022) by Gabrielle Zevin tells the story of Sadie and Sam, childhood friends turned creative collaborators and video game designers. The novel charts the tumultuous highs and lows of Sam and Sadie’s friendship against the vividly realized backdrop of the gaming industry at the turn of the 21st century. 

    Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow Review

    Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow (2022) is a thought-provoking novel that explores the intricacies of time, memory, and the choices we make in life. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With its unique and mind-bending concept, the book challenges our perception of time and raises profound philosophical questions.
    • Through its richly developed characters and their interconnected stories, the book offers a deep exploration of human emotions and relationships.
    • The narrative's elegant and lyrical prose draws readers in, creating an immersive reading experience that is both intellectually stimulating and emotionally impactful.

    Who should read Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow?

    • Anyone intrigued by the idea of creative partnerships
    • Anyone with even a passing interest in video games
    • Anyone who’s ever had, or lost, a friend

    About the Author

    Gabrielle Zevin is a New York Times bestselling author of ten novels for adults and young readers. Her novel The Storied Life of A.J Fikry was adapted into a film, for which Zevin wrote the screenplay. Her latest novel, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is also currently being adapted for film.

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