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Posted on 29 May 2024 in Fiction | 0 comments

GABRIELLE ZEVIN Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow. Reviewed by CJ Pardey

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Gabrielle Zevin’s bestselling novel set in the world of game designers has a lot to say about writers, too. 

In Macbeth’s soliloquy beginning ‘Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,’ Macbeth foreshadows his own death, the finality of it and the ephemerality of life. However, in the world of gaming as created by Gabrielle Zevin in her most recent novel Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, death is not the serious business it is in real life. In the world of gaming there is always a tomorrow, and with it there is always the opportunity for redemption, reconciliation, and renewal. It’s part of the appeal of gaming, and it’s part of the appeal of Zevin’s book.

Like her fictional gaming characters Sam Masur and Sadie Green, Zevin effectively creates a world that revolves around the friendships between Sam, Sadie, and Marx. This triangulation gives Zevin a lot to play around with. 

Without knowing why, Sam had tried to keep Sadie and Marx apart … He feared them comparing notes and somehow ganging up on him … [he] feared they would prefer each other to him – everyone, in Sam’s estimation, loved Sadie and Marx.

The possibilities of romance between the three, their strong friendship and loyalty continually put all of them, like star-crossed lovers, at odds with each other – or, in the case of two of them, in the world of happily-ever-after.

The gaming world in Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is described so well, so intuitively and with so many insights, that by the end of the novel readers may be wondering how they ever managed to wean themselves off Pac-Man. As Zevin writes, a person who designs games is the most empathetic artist in the world: 

You’re a builder of worlds, and if you’re a builder of worlds, your feelings are not as important as what your gamers are feeling. You must imagine them at all times.

It is a clever conceit – the similarities between the world of the writer and the world of the game designer, and Zevin has a lot of fun with it, playing not only with the narrative of her characters but setting them in a world where their aspirations are made clear through the aspirations of the characters they create within their games. Zevin is able to extend the metaphor by having her characters ‘living’ within a game, where one character at least is able to communicate more than they ever could in real life.

Given the stereotypes surrounding people who spend their time communicating more with technology than fellow humans, Zevin’s three protagonists are wonderfully engaging, including one of the most genuinely kind characters I’ve read in fiction for some time. This character, Marx, is not a gamer, rather he is the person who markets the games of his friends Sam Masur and Sadie Green. In effect, Marx allows Sam and Sadie to communicate their skills to the real world. Possibly it is no accident that Marx is the most endearing character, for while Zevin ensures we care about Sam and Sadie and understand them, it is Marx who is the most easily relatable, serving both as a conduit for Sam and Sadie and at times the reader as well.

The plot, propelled by the changing dynamic of the relationship between the three characters, feels contrived at times, but the intense likeability of the characters carries the reader effortlessly on. While the heterosexual relationships here have the potential for romance, Zevin is ultimately more interested in the bonds of friendship, how friendship can survive unrequited love and can in fact be a relationship that is as sustaining as romantic love. It is the strength of this novel that she convinces us that this could be the case.

Gabrielle Zevin Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow Vintage 2023 432pp $22.99

Catherine Pardey has reviewed for Rochford Street Review and The Beast.

You can buy Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow from Abbey’s at a 10% discount by quoting the promotion code NEWTOWNREVIEW or you can buy it from Booktopia.

You can also check if it is available from Newtown Library.If you’d like to help keep the Newtown Review of Books a free and independent site for book reviews, please consider making a donation. Your support is greatly appreciated.

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