“This Time Tomorrow” by Emma Straub

Genre: Science Fiction/Domestic FictionThis time
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Pub. Date: May 17, 2022

Think of Kate Atkinson’s novel “Life After Life,” Bill Murray’s film “Groundhog Day,” and Nicholas Cage’s film “The Family Man,” then add the play “Our Town,” (which celebrates the mundane things of everyday life) to the mix, and you have “This Time Tomorrow.” Alice Stern who has been drifting through life wakes up the morning of her 40th birthday to discover that she has just turned 16 again and the year is 1996. Her confusion and disorientation give way to a cautious joy as she realizes that her father, Leonard, is now in the prime of his life. When she is 40 he was a terminally ill senior. Their bond is particularly strong since he is a single parent. Leonard is the well-known author of the time-travel novel, “Time Brothers,” which is a clever move by Straub. Because, at this moment in time, Alice has the opportunity to ask her father questions about time travel, which she previously had no interest. Now, that she feels as if she has jumped into the plot of the old sci-fi TV show, “Quantum Leap” she has many questions. And, hopes to create a better future for themselves.

The heart of this tale is to make one wonder; if you could go back in time what would you do differently. As the reader, she did make me wonder. It was a fun exercise. Jumping around through the years made me feel nostalgic for my own past such as what was I up to when “Quantum Leap” was on the air. Or, where was I when I watched “Back To The Future” for the first time? Oh yes, I was changing diapers. You get the idea. It was amusing to read about Alice’s attempts to comprehend what was happening to her. I particularly liked when she compares herself to Peggy in the film “When Peggy Sue Got Married.” It almost feels as if Straub is poking fun at herself, which makes her references so funny. And, as a native New Yorker, I especially enjoyed her numerous descriptions of Manhattan. If you are interested in NYC you will also enjoy them, if not you might think “enough already.” Another criticism is that after a while, I got tired of Alice’s many 16th birthdays. It became repetitious.

Typically, I am not a fan of time travel stories. Others undoubtedly do; just look at the numerous books and films referenced in this review. Though not cited in the book, one of my favorite time travel novels is Matt Haig’s work “The Midnight Library,” in which each book allows the protagonist to try out a different life. To be honest, I probably fell in love with this book because the setting takes place in a magical library, which sounds just wonderful. In reality, “Time” and “Midnight” are both good reads that deal with the same theme but with different twists.

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