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Book Club Discussion Questions: Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, And Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

For those of you that haven't or couldn't attend book club lately, we're publishing this months' discussion questions here. All previous book club selections have been posted, complete with summary, discussion questions and, when necessary or appropriate, additional resources to better understand the topic or context. Here are the questions from our current title, Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, And Tomorrow. We hope these questions spark discussions of your own.

 

Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, And Tomorrow

by Gabrielle Zevin


Summary:

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • Sam and Sadie—two college friends, often in love, but never lovers—become creative partners in a dazzling and intricately imagined world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality. It is a love story, but not one you have read before.


"Delightful and absorbing." —The New York Times • "Utterly brilliant." —John Green


One of the Best Books of the Year: The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, TIME, GoodReads, Oprah Daily


From the best-selling author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom.


These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.


Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. -- Publisher Description

 

Discussion Questions

Official Questions

  1. Describe the types of “love” shared among Sadie, Sam, and Marx. What catalyzes the shifts in their relationships over the years? Consider Sadie’s explanation to Sam about why they never got together: “Lovers are . . . common. Because I loved working with you better than I liked the idea of making love to you. Because true collaborators in this life are rare” (page 393).

  2. How does Dov set the standards for Sadie’s work as a game designer, as a woman, and as a wife/partner to both Sam and Marx? What compels her to keep him in her life even after they break up?

  3. Sadie considers how their experience as designers would have been different if they were born a decade (more or less) before or after when they were born. Technological advances aside, what else would have been different about their story if it was shifted slightly in time? Consider Sadie and Dov’s relationship, the options for Sam’s foot, the proliferation of mass shootings, and other cultural and social events.

  4. Marx’s main creative role is as an actor, which is limited to his time in college. How does he continue to contribute to the creative process with Sam and Sadie—as producer, muse, organizer, and more? What does his participation suggest about the various ways in which one participates in art beyond being an artist?

  5. If you were in their shoes, would you have taken the deal with Cellar Door Games or Opus Interactive to produce Ichigo? How would the novel have turned out differently if they had chosen Cellar Door?

  6. How does Sam’s foot—while it’s injured and after it’s been amputated—shape his sense of self? Consider his reflections on gender, sexuality, and pain, including how he constructs his avatar as Mayor Mazer. How do the sensitivities of his relationship with this part of his body improve and damage his relationships with the people he loves?

  7. The novel bends its narrative form to assume the structure of the games in various places—namely, Both Sides, the NPC, and Pioneers sections. How did your reading experience shift in those sections? Did the format enhance your immersion into the worlds the team was building, even through text alone?

  8. Sam suffers numerous losses in the book—his mother, Anna; his friend and partner, Marx; his foot; his relationship with Sadie; his grandfather. How does gaming help him cope with his thoughts about his mother: “There are, he determines, infinite ways his mother doesn’t die that night and only one way she does” (page 172)?

  9. Whom do you think deserves more creative credit for Ichigo and Mapleworld, their two most successful venturesSam or Sadie? How does the media’s interpretation of Sam as Ichigo and Mayor Mazer affect their working dynamic?

  10. Do you think Sadie and Sam regret the choices they made for Mapleworld, given how the game’s political voice led to Marx’s death? Do you think Marx had any regrets?

  11. What alternative “plays” during the shooting at Unfair Games could have caused Marx to live?

  12. Marx muses while in his coma: “Memory, you realized long ago, is a game that a healthy-brained person can play all the time, and the game of memory is won or lost on one criterion: Do you leave the formation of memories to happenstance, or do you decide to remember?” (page 286). What do the characters in the novel decide to remember through their games? Do they acknowledge the role and value of happenstance in the creation of their real world and their imagined worlds?

  13. From the title of the novel, to Sadie’s invocation of Emily Dickinson, to Marx’s epithet, “Tamer of Horses,” to Master of the Revels, there are many allusions to classical literature woven throughout the novel. What does this suggest about the nature of storytelling—how many ways can the same stories, emotions, and experiences be reinvented? Does the team believe they can create and are creating something new in their work, or are they finding new ways of expressing universal themes? What do video games offer a person in the form of entertainment, community, and growth that a play, a poem, or other art forms do not?

  14. Discuss how the other game designers that join Unfair Games—Ant and Simon, and the Worths—contribute to the plot of the novel. What would they be if the novel was a video game?

  15. What does taking over Dov’s class at MIT help Sadie understand about her life path, including the motives and conditions that helped her make Ichigo, as prompted by her conversation with Destiny?

  16. Sadie notes that the kids in her class have a very different attitude toward telling their stories, in life and in games, compared to when she was growing up in the 1980s. How have you observed similar shifts within your own families and communities? How has technology shaped our modes of expression, sense of self-worth, and value systems, especially among teenagers?

  17. What video games have you formed an attachment to in your life, as a child and/or as an adult? What about the gameplay, story, or characters drew you in and left an impression on you?

  18. Both Sadie and Sam use games to explicitly memorialize their loved ones and process their losses. If you could design a game to change or preserve some part of your reality, what would it be like?

Medium.com Questions

  1. What’s one thing you liked about “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow”?

  2. What’s one thing about this book you would have changed?

  3. Did your familiarity with video games (or lack thereof) matter to your enjoyment of the story?

  4. Which of the main characters did you identify with most?

  5. Sadie and Sam feel that their relationship is deeper than the word “love” can even reflect, yet they hide many of their biggest struggles from each other. What do you think about the depth of their relationship?

  6. Did you want or expect Sam and Sadie to end up together?

  7. What did you think of the more surreal chapters, the ones that read as if the story was a game?

  8. How did Sam’s tragic backstory impact the way he went through the world?

  9. Sadie deals with sexism in the industry — for example, the Ichigo character becoming a boy, and assumptions that Sam was the primary creator of their games. What kinds of sexism does your industry experience?

  10. Why do you feel some people, including Sam, didn’t take Marx seriously?

  11. If you were any of these character’s therapists, what would you want to say to them?

  12. Sadie notes that the students in her class have a very different attitude toward telling their stories, in life and in games. How have you observed similar shifts with today’s teenagers?

  13. Which of the Unfair Games creations do you wish existed in real life?

  14. Would you have taken the deal with Cellar Door Games or Opus Interactive to produce Ichigo?

  15. Like the decision above, there are a few key points in the story that affect the trajectory of the trio’s careers. How has your career path evolved over time? What were the inflection points where you headed in a new direction?

  16. What do you think is special about video games as a medium?

  17. What video games have you formed an attachment to in your life, as a child and/or as an adult? What about the gameplay, story or characters drew you in and left an impression on you?

  18. What do you think happens next for Sam and Sadie?

  19. What was your take-away from the book?

Original Questions

  1. On a number of occasions the concept of cultural appropriation is raised. In one interview about Ichigo and possible appropriation, Sam states that "The alternative to appropriation is a world in which artists only reference their own cultures. ... a world where white European people make art about white European people, with only white European references in it. Swap African or Asian or whatever culture you want for European. A world where everyone is blind and deaf to any culture or experience that is not their own. ... I'm terrified of that world, and I don't want to live in that world, and as a mixed-race person, I literally don't exist in it. ..." (p.78) What is your take on this interview? Does Sam have a point or does he take it to far? Was this a different understanding than you had?

  2. What is the balance between identifying an origin of a practice and sharing something that others can enjoy? How can we increase mutual understanding and communication across different cultures within a country?

  3. Why do you think Sadie stayed with Dov so long? Would you have? Questions of consent and free will are raised. What is your take? Did anything particularly stand out to you or strike you?

  4. There is discussion of gender bias in the gaming world that still holds true today. Why do you think we still associate computers and technology with men? Do you think this will ever change?

  5. Before the friends make their first game, Sam is confronted by his advisor and the question is asked of him whether he truly loves his chosen field. He is told "You're incredibly gifted, Sam. But it's worth noting that to be good at something is not quite the same as loving it." How do you see this played out? Is this limited to just his career or do you see this happening elsewhere? Discuss.

  6. In a number of places, the idea that playing a game together is one of the most intimate things two people can do. What are your thoughts? Do you agree with the idea that “To allow yourself to play with another person is no small risk. It means allowing yourself to be open, to be exposed, to be hurt… To play requires trust and love.” (p. 21) or do you find this to be an excuse?

  7. Were there parts of the book that made you uncomfortable? How so?

  8. Discuss how the book handled mental health issues.

  9. There is a line about escaping into work/games in regards to Ant returning to work after the shootout: "'Truthfully, Sam, I was grateful for Counterpart High. I was grateful not to have to be in this world.' Ant paused. 'Sometimes when I'm working on CPH, that world feels more real to me than, like, the world world, anyway." (p. 331) What is your take on this perspective?

  10. Have you ever read another book with an asexual main character? Was it clear to you that Sam was? Was it important to the story or change something in terms of how they viewed the world? Did it change how you viewed them?

  11. Domestic violence and a victim's sense of complicity are discussed a few times with most of the incidents occurring off stage, out of sight of the main action. Do you think this was an effective way of discussing these issues? What was your take on the issue in the larger story?

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