Emma Straub crafts a time-travel story for everyone who’s ever lost a loved one in her new book, This Time Tomorrow. As the story opens, we meet Alice. She’s a born-and-bred New Yorker with a famous author for a father. She works at the tony private school she attended and hasn’t moved far from her childhood home. Despite being about to turn 40, Alice hasn’t launched fully. Instead, she’s got one foot in the present while still touching down in the past. On top of everything, her once-vital dad is in the hospital and fading fast.
Somehow, Alice wakes up on her birthday, having time-traveled back to the morning of her 16th birthday. Imagine the shock she feels at the changes she sees in the mirror. More importantly, she encounters the equally younger version of her father. Heading off to school is a delicate balance as well.
But the 40-year-old is still in there. And she wonders whether she could or should tweak anything to change her future. This sets the stage for Straub’s melancholy meanderings about destiny, fate, and how to save our beloveds from leaving Earth too soon.
This was a sweet and poignant book, mainly because my dad died way too young, like Alice (and author Emma Straub). I understood Alice’s impulse to remake her dad’s habits and possibly keep him around for a few more years.
Alice is a likable woman, despite her lack of drive and focus. She floats through life, helping the kids at school, and staying connected to her lifelong best friend. But she doesn’t have a relationship anchor beside her dad, and this time travel experience offers her the chance to experiment with that.
Straub’s writing also floats around all these universal truths. Rather than repeatedly walloping us, she inches various options forward and lets Alice lead the way. It’s a subtle but powerful note rather than an overwhelming gong.
All in all, I enjoyed this book. It’s my first from Straub and perhaps not my last.