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This Time Tomorrow

Review

This Time Tomorrow

The mechanics of time travel in fiction require a willingness to suspend disbelief, and it is a rare author who can successfully pull it off. Emma Straub’s new novel, the fantastic THIS TIME TOMORROW, is one of those successes. Without overly explaining her mechanism of time travel (the characters don’t really understand it either), Straub uses the conceit to explore father-daughter relationships and parental mortality.

On the night before her 40th birthday, Alice Stern --- having turned down a marriage proposal --- stumbles drunkenly to her childhood home in New York City. There she curls up in a shared garden shed to sleep it off and wakes up in the year 1996 on her 16th birthday. Her confusion and disorientation give way to a cautious joy as she realizes that she also has returned to the prime of her father’s life.

"THIS TIME TOMORROW is lovely, thoughtful and poignant. It is never saccharine and manages to avoid cynicism, which is no small feat in writing about family dynamics and self-reflection."

Leonard Stern is a one-hit wonder whose YA novel, Time Brothers, has been made into a wildly popular television show. Time travel is a concept that threads through the Stern household. Between the book and the program, as well as public appearances, Leonard is able to support himself and Alice after his wife, Serena, leaves to follow her bliss in California. Alice attends an elite private school and later works there as an admissions officer. The relationship between trusting Leonard and respectful Alice is sweet and kind in ways rarely depicted in literature.

This sets the scene for the party that Alice throws on her 16th birthday, a pivotal event at the end of a milestone day. Alice learns that she can return to this day again and again --- and she does so in order to alter the course of both her father’s life and her own. Changing the way the party unfolds impacts Alice’s life by her 40th birthday. But it is the conversations she has with Leonard in 1996 that she focuses on as she moves back and forth through time.

With the support of her best friend Sam, Alice aims to change Leonard’s health, hoping to save him from what seems to be an inevitable decline, and to save herself from losing him. While time travel means that Alice can affect her own life --- giving herself a wealthy husband, beautiful children, a powerful career and more --- what she really wants is more time with her father. Straub probes both the complexities of the relationship between Alice and Leonard and the ways in which Alice deals with Leonard's mortality.

THIS TIME TOMORROW is lovely, thoughtful and poignant. It is never saccharine and manages to avoid cynicism, which is no small feat in writing about family dynamics and self-reflection. With Alice and Leonard, Straub has created a healthy family dynamic and gives Alice autonomy, not to mention the strength to deal with something as fantastical as time travel. Like Alice, readers will find themselves wanting more time with Leonard. And, like Leonard, they will be delighted with Alice.

This is a beautiful and rare novel, lovingly crafted with wisdom about and affection for the characters. Straub asks readers to ponder life and death, as well as the choices that define them, while still offering an entertaining, slyly humorous and truly special story.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on May 20, 2022

This Time Tomorrow
by Emma Straub

  • Publication Date: May 17, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books
  • ISBN-10: 052553900X
  • ISBN-13: 9780525539001