book review: This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub


This Time Tomorrow
 by Emma Straub 

Overview: On Alice's 40th birthday, she falls into a time loop. She goes from being a single woman with her own apartment and a job at her old high school to waking up in her childhood bedroom 16 again. Most importantly, when she wakes up, her dad is younger again too. Instead of in the hospital, attached to a million wires and unconscious, he's vibrant and wacky and the dad she remembers again. As she falls somewhere between Freaky Friday and Groundhog Day, Alice becomes determined to wrinkle time enough to avoid her father still being in the hospital when she makes it back to the present day. Overall: 4

Characters: 4 Alice is the protagonist of the novel, but Alice is almost multiple characters within the novel. She's her 40 year old consciousness through all the ups and downs, but as she encounters new situations both as her kid self and the different possibilities she bounces into as an adult, her sensibilities shift. She's able to try out all of these lives, making small tweaks during her time as a teenager to create wildly different adulthoods. This is an interesting way of revealing character and showing what's important to a person. While Alice was a bit flat overall, she was a good vehicle for this story, and the unfolding parental relationship story definitely had me tearing up at times. You don't see many novels about powerful bond between a dad and a daughter, so that made this book and its dynamic stand out as unique. Alice getting to appreciate her dad in a new way was incredibly powerful. There's also a strong friendship theme as Alice maintains her bond with her best friend no matter how their lives shake out and regardless of if they're kids or adults. 

Plot: 4 The book is interesting, but it's also quite repetitive. That's honestly a hard reality to escape when you're writing about time travel, particularly a time loop. It's interesting to see some of these sci-fi threads borrowed into a literary fiction novel. It's actually a fantastic vehicle to use in a book about processing grief and the different kinds of grief we endure as we get older. There's the obvious layer of losing a loved one to illness or old age and having to cope with someone you love not being around anymore. But the book also tackles the grief that's not often acknowledged in growing up and losing pieces of yourself to that process as well as witnessing the same thing happening to those around you. Then, an even smaller thread is about the quiet sadness of the physical place you grew up with changing slowly and then all at once. 

Writing: 4 The writing is good. All the elements and themes of the novel are well drawn. It's effective at tugging on your heartstrings and creating a connection even if there isn't anything super specific to attach to within the text. I definitely got a little bored at times, though, from the repetitiveness and a sort of aimlessness through the middle of the novel. It's not a standout, but it was definitely a solid read. 

More on Reading, Writing, and Me

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