A few months ago, the summary of a new books caught my attention: This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub. With its focus on a father-daughter relationship, time travel, and getting more time with a loved one who is dying, I knew it was something I wanted to read as I reflect on my own dad’s death nine years ago. Maybe a bit masochistic of me, yet also somehow cleansing. It was also the perfect way to start my June reading challenge, which is to read books about family relationships.
Alice is about to turn 40, but in many ways she feels she hasn’t reached the milestones she’d expected by now. All she has is her best friend from high school, who’s always busy with her children, and her father, who is dying of an unknown ailment. He doesn’t have much time life, and Alice is afraid to be all alone in the world, forever adrift.
But on the morning of her 40th birthday, Alice wakes up in her childhood home to find that it’s her 16th birthday. She gets to relive this special day and spend time with her dad – young and spry again – but can she change the course of their future? Can she prevent his body from shutting down in 24 years? This Time Tomorrow explores the relationship between father and daughter and the butterfly effect of our actions.
As soon as I saw the description for This Time Tomorrow, I knew I had to read it. It’s about a woman who’s about to lose her father and her chance to spend one more day with him before it’s too late. My dad died nine years ago (in fact, I read this book on the anniversary of his death), and I would give almost anything to get another day with him. I haven’t found a way to time travel yet, but I thought that reading This Time Tomorrow would be cathartic in some way.
I love the relationship between Alice and her dad, Leonard. Her parents divorced when she was young, and her mother has had minimal involvement in her life since then. For the most part, it’s always been Alice and Leonard. Their father-daughter relationship is more relaxed than most, him taking on the role of friend in some respects. It’s sweet to see how close they are and how Leonard loves Alice for who she is.
Though I went into This Time Tomorrow expecting it to be painfully emotional, I managed to get through it without crying. (I cry pretty easily, so this was a surprising feat.) For all its depth and its examination of tougher themes (illness, death, grieving), the story is told with a certain amount of levity, too. It’s not funny and silly, nor is it distant and unfeeling; yet somehow, it is just delicate enough that you can sit with the emotion without being overwhelmed by it.
The relationship between Alice and Leonard is center stage, but I also appreciated Alice’s friendship with Sam. They’re best friends at 16 and at 40, and though by then Sam is busy with her husband and kids, she’s still a cornerstone in Alice’s life. This is a wonderful example of female friendship that lasts decades, even a lifetime. Sam is understanding and generous, but she’s not afraid to give Alice a gentle push when she needs it.
Of course, This Time Tomorrow is also fundamentally about time travel. Unlike some time travel books I’ve read, this one does offer some explanation for what’s going on and how it works. Not a ton, mind you, but enough. When Alice first falls back in time, her reaction and thought process around it is refreshingly realistic. When she tells others what’s happened, they react believably, too. I also quite enjoyed Alice’s thinking through other time travel media she’s seen – Back to the Future, Outlander, even her own father’s book, Time Brothers. How did it work for them, and what’s happening with Alice’s unexpected time travel?
Once Alice has determined it is real, she wastes no time in seeing how she can improve the future. Her actions made complete sense to me and are probably more or less what I would do in her situation. I appreciate the believability and realness.
The book does become thought-provoking, and I couldn’t help but wonder how much I could change if I went back in time. Could I have prevented my dad’s death? My uncle’s death? Would I be able to change the course of my career? What if, instead of changing for the better, you returned to the future only to have made things worse?
One final highlight is how I could empathize with Alice in certain ways. She’s drifted through life, not making great strides in her career or love life. Now that she’s reaching middle age, she wonders if it’s too late. What did she do wrong, and how could she have made more progress by now? But one valuable lesson in This Time Tomorrow is that we don’t need to be on any set timeline. It’s okay if you’re a late bloomer. It’s okay if you never become someone who’s famous or creates something impactful. As long as you’re true to yourself and happy, maybe that’s enough.
This Time Tomorrow is a thoughtful and sensitive story about connection, especially between a father and daughter. It’s gentle and sweet, even with its sadder themes. It’s the first book I’ve read from Emma Straub, and I look forward to reading more from her.
Get the Book
You can buy This Time Tomorrow here – it’s available as a hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook.
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|This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub|
|Genre||Contemporary Fiction; Science Fiction|
|Setting||New York City|
|Number of Pages||307|
|Format I Read||Hardcover|
|Original Publication Date||May 17, 2022|
What if you could take a vacation to your past?
With her celebrated humor, insight, and heart, beloved New York Times bestseller Emma Straub offers her own twist on traditional time travel tropes, and a different kind of love story.
On the eve of her 40th birthday, Alice’s life isn’t terrible. She likes her job, even if it isn’t exactly the one she expected. She’s happy with her apartment, her romantic status, her independence, and she adores her lifelong best friend. But her father is ailing, and it feels to her as if something is missing. When she wakes up the next morning she finds herself back in 1996, reliving her 16th birthday. But it isn’t just her adolescent body that shocks her, or seeing her high school crush, it’s her dad: the vital, charming, 40-something version of her father with whom she is reunited. Now armed with a new perspective on her own life and his, some past events take on new meaning. Is there anything that she would change if she could?
About the Author
Emma Straub is the New York Times‒bestselling author of the novels All Adults Here, Modern Lovers, The Vacationers, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, and the short story collection Other People We Married. Straub’s work has been published in twenty countries, and she and her husband own Books Are Magic, an independent bookstore in Brooklyn, New York.