“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Macbeth, Act-V, Scene-V
Upon first hearing about Gabrielle Zevin’s newest novel, I couldn’t help but think about the famous soliloquy from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, written above. In the speech, Macbeth discusses how he feels that life is meaningless, short and that the end is inescapable. Until I was about 3/4 through Zevin’s novel, I wasn’t sure if the speech actually had any connection to the novel, other than the title of course, but the connection is there indeed, which I loved. I put a hold on this novel knowing essentially nothing about it – just that it was well-liked (I’d just seen that it won the GoodReads Choice Award for Best Fiction Book of 2022). The novel follows Sam Masur and Sadie Green. The two were childhood best friends when Sam was in the hospital recovering from a car accident that left his foot unusable. They had a falling out and reunited as students at MIT, which is where the book picks up. Sadie and Sam decide to make a video game together, and so begins their journey as collaborators, friends, colleagues and something that cannot be put into words. The story spans 30 years, following Sam and Sadie, diving into their histories to learn what has made them the people they become, as well as the important side characters essential to their story: Sam’s roommate Marx, Sadie’s professor/boyfriend Dov, and several others.
As mentioned, Sam and Sadie’s professional relationship involves the creation of video games. Sadie is an amazing programmer, and Sam is the artistic mind behind the games. The two, along with Marx as their producer, first create Ichigo, which launches them into worldwide fame, before creating several other games under their company Unfair Games. As someone who played more than a few video games growing up in the 1990s, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the team create their first came during the same time period. It was fascinating listening to how the characters feel about video games and how they use them as metaphors for things in the real world as well. You don’t need to be a video game lover to enjoy this book, though there are definitely many video game references throughout for those who are deep within that world.
This novel touches on so many topics, there is something for everyone within it. While there is much success for Unfair Games, there are also failures. While there is happiness throughout the novel, there are several stories of heartbreak and despair. As mentioned, Sam and Sadie met as children in a hospital – Sadie’s sister had cancer and Sam was in a car accident. He spends the novel trying to “deal” with his foot (or more accurately for Sam, ignoring his foot) and the constant pain and agony it gives him. He does not think of himself as having a disability for much of the novel, though he feels others likely do. Sadie’s relationship with Dov is a problematic one for several reasons. Marx has a strained relationship with his parents, who have a strained relationship with each other. This novel is hugely character-driven, but is also plot-driven as well. It dives into serious topics and takes you on a 30 year journey of how relationships can – and often do – ebb and flow, no matter how long you’ve known the person.
As Sam and Sadie create worlds in their video games, Gabrielle Zevin has created a world inside this novel that comes to life beautifully through her detailed storytelling. Powerful, imaginative and showcasing our human need for connection, this novel is a fantastic read. Be sure to check out Gabrielle Zevin’s “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” today!
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