It's been a long time since a book has moved me to actual tears, but Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin has done just that. It did so not because it is overly romantic or remotely sappy, but rather because it is wonderfully written, with two main characters that are fully drawn and utterly engaging. Sam and Sadie meet as pre-teens while he is in the hospital and she, unbeknownst to him, is accumulating volunteer hours for a program through her synagogue. Although coming from very different worlds, a friendship is born, lost and re-born, spanning several decades, including when the two reunite in Cambridge, MA while in college.
It is there that they discover their shared passion for gaming, playing and designing them, and as such, they decide to collaborate on the creation of one. Ichigo was truly a labor of love that took most of their Junior year. Throughout the year, their friendship deepened although initially they did not divulge the deep emotions making up their lives. For Sam, in addition to being partially disabled, that meant withholding exactly when and how he loss his mother and why he had spent much of his youth being raised by his grandparents in LA. For Sadie, it was the current situation of being in an ill-advised and unhealthy relationship with her married professor.
Helping to navigate their friendship while keeping up with classes and building a great game, was Sam’s affluent, but always affable and positive roommate, Marks. Although he knows nothing about gaming except playing them, Marks is Sam and Sadie's biggest fan. He was there for them both- buying meals, diffusing arguments, encouraging creativity, and underwriting the project. He was their rock and the glue that made them stick throughout that challenging year and then some. The three would garner so much success with that first game, they would go on to develop other games, enlisting the help of an entire staff, first in Cambridge, then back to LA.
Author Gabrielle Zevin brilliantly explores the fragility of love and friendship, identity and disability. She does so through the vivid prose, stinging dialogue, and with the backdrop of the imaginative world of gaming. It's important to note, that you do not have to be into gaming at all in order to appreciate this story. As much as I was fully drawn into the characters and their individual and collective journeys, I even more so appreciated Zevin’s writing, plot development and witnessing her obvious personal growth as a writer. She quietly and solidly enter the indie bookstore scene in 2014 with the sweet and effective novel, The Storied Life ofA.J. Fikry, then in 2017 she showed her range with the socially relevant, yet often hilarious book, Young Jane Young. But Tomorrow takes her to a whole other level, or as Publisher’s Weekly puts it, “A-one-of-a-kind achievement.”