Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Usually, when I read a book I know how I feel about it—whether I loved it, really liked it, thought it was just okay, or disliked it—and I have an idea of how to articulate my feelings. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is one of those rare books that has me really torn up and confused. The love I felt for the first half of the book was slowly eroded by the mounting frustration I felt during the latter half. I loved one of the central characters and really hated the other one. At first, I found the dynamics and relationships at play within the story compelling and rendered with both realism and empathy. As the story progresses however I began to long to read of an actual relationship, platonic or not, between the two central characters. But what we have is the echo of a childhood friendship, more than actual friendship. The characters believe that they care for one another, or that they have a complex and fraught bond…but we don’t really see that beyond a fight here and there. I felt that their supposedly iconic yet thorny friendship was absent from much of the narrative. There was the promise, in the early chapters, of a meaningful connection…but beyond that first scene, where they see each other after all those years, there isn’t a spark between them.
I also found it predictably tedious and exceedingly heteronormative to have the three male characters with most page time be attracted/in love with the one female character (there is a minor female character later on but she just exists to affirm how special & interesting our female protagonist is). But I am getting ahead of myself…

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow follows two (former) childhood friends who are reunited as adults and find themselves collaborating on a game. Sam Masur, who after the death of his mother grew up with his grandparents. His disability impacts most aspects of his life but he avoids asking for help, not wanting people’s pity. At Harvard, Sam’s college roommate, Marx, who is wealthy, attractive, and popular, dotes on him, without making a big deal of it. Eventually, Sam comes across Sadie Green, who he’d met during one of the darkest times of his life. Despite the abrupt end to their friendship, the two rekindle their friendship and plan on making a game together. Through Sadie, who is from a moderately wealthy family, we witness just how sexist and competitive the gaming industry is, from college classes to the actual workplace. She becomes involved with one of her teachers, a man who designed a really famous game. The guy is a sleaze and incredibly toxic, but Sadie Green suffers from Sally Rooney female-protagonist syndrome and therefore for reasons unclear to us beyond the trite old approval/validation from a successful older man, she believes she is in love with him. Sam and Sadie, aided by Marx, (whom sadie, as with most female protagonists who happen to be the only prominent female character in their stories, pretends to dislike), manage to make Ichigo into a real blockbuster. There are obvious creative disagreements, and later, financial ones. Sadie spends most of the narrative blaming Sam for choices she made and for things that are out of his control. Yet, the narrative never paints as self-pitying, rather, it tries to make us sympathize with her. I however could not bring myself to do that. I found her as boring as a cardboard box. She thinks she is brilliant, and later on, after a creative misfire, misunderstood. Everyone else, such as Sam, Sadie’s on-and-off lover, and even Marx and his girlfriend, believes that she is clever and unique. But having other characters tell us that this other character is smart and interesting doth not make a smart and interesting character (far from it actually). The way she blames Sam for everything was sickening frankly. She emphasises how as the years go by, she does more work than Sam does…as if Sam was lazy or taking advantage of her or wanted to take her credit…rather than having to cope with his declining physical health and later on recovering from a major surgery. It was sickening to see how Sadie and the narrative itself made it seem as if they were both to blame for their misunderstandings and their fraught relationship. But the thing is…outside of the time they spent gaming together as children, I did not believe that they were ever actual friends. Sam’s traumatic experiences and present-day health issues make us understand why he may find it hard to articulate his feelings or thoughts. But Sadie? She was a righteous selfish stronza who only blames others for her own mistakes. Also, she often made it seem as if Sam and Marx could never understand the kind of sexist microaggressions she experiences as a woman in a male-dominated industry…when Sam and Marx, unlike her, are not white so they would have also inevitably experienced discrimination. Sam, unlike her, is disabled and does not come from money. Sadie holds it against Sam that they choose to sell Ichigo to a company that would pay more (sadie believed that the one offering less was a much better deal as it would allow them to have more control/creative freedom)…but she knows that Sam pushed for the bigger offer because of all his hospital bills and college debt. Like…wtf Sadie? How can you hold it against Sam? She was infuriating. I genuinely disliked her and that 3 out of 5 major male characters fall for her or find her to be leagues above other boring women (the 2 who do not fall for her happen to be a couple…). The guy she dates to being with…what was the point in them? Make us feel bad for Sadie? Her martyr like act really grated on me and so did the narrative’s attempts to paint her in a good light.

Sam…I loved him. He has flaws, sure, but he felt real and three-dimensional in a way that Sadie just didn’t. His sadness and pain are rendered with empathy and clarity, so we gain an understanding of why he behaves a certain way: from his tendency to withdraw to his unwillingness to express his real feelings. The only thing I did not understand about him was his love for Sadie…Marx too, despite his behavior in the latter part of the book (despite the queer-baiting jokes about his devotion to sam…the guy ends up with the one person he knows sam loves) made for a fantastic friend and character.
While we know thanks to some flashforwards that Sam and Sadie eventually no longer work together, I still found myself frustrated by the latter half of the novel which mostly consists of ingroup arguments. There was something slightly manipulative and sensationalistic about the finale, which left me feeling rather disgruntled.

I am ultimately left feeling deeply disappointed by how this novel turned out to be. I would have much preferred it if the story had focused on the friendship between Sam and Marx, without even bringing Sadie into the picture. Still, at first, I did love the prose, and I grew to care deeply for Sam. I will say that in addition to less Sadie, less schmaltz, and less recursive yet slightly stilted arguments, I could have done without the story’s throwaway inclusion of bi-curiosity. Last complaint: why did the love Sam feels for Sadie have to be romantic?!

Would I recommend this? The me who had only read say the first half definitely would. I would say that sure I cared more about Sam’s storyline than Sadie’s but I would say that the writing brought to mind Hanya Yanagihara, Brit Bennett, and Ann Patchett as well as friendship-focused novels by Rosie Price, Kayla Rae Whitaker, and Rebecca Kauffman. I definitely appreciated the scope of T, the pacing of the story, the way Zevin seemingly incorporates flashbacks and flashforwards within the narrative, as well as her exploration of loneliness, ambition, creativity, insecurity and her portrayal of grief, trauma, and guilt. Zevin is able to give us insight into the gaming industry without boring us with unnecessary details. She makes us understand why Sam and Sadie want to create the games they do and makes us care about the problems that inevitably crop up when trying to translate an idea into one’s reality. There were moments of such tenderness that I found deeply affecting. Learning about Sam’s mother and Sam’s own relationship with his grandparents, made for some of the best passages and scenes in the whole book.

If you happen to find characters like Sadie relatable or compelling, and you don’t mind when potentially complex friendships devolve into banal (requited or not) romantic ones, well, chances are you will find Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow to be an engrossing and moving tale charting the coming together and the coming apart of two childhood friends. If you, like me, have a low tolerance for self-pitying characters whose self-absorption is excused by the narrative itself, or stories that ruin platonic relationships in favour of devolving into petty jealousies and cheesy yet sensationalistic plot points…well, you might be better off steering clear of this one.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
goodreads thestorygraph letterboxd tumblr ko-fi


Create a website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: