Washington Post Reviews Emma Straub’s Latest

In ‘This Time Tomorrow,’ a 40-year-old gets to be 16 again

By Ellen Akins

You should know, before you begin this journey, that “This Time Tomorrow” is a story about time travel. So prepare your suspension-of-disbelief mind muscles for the heavy lift. Or just settle in for the ride, confident that Emma Straub will conduct you to the welcoming place where fiction and wishful thinking align. There are plenty of signposts to ease your way.

Most helpfully, the father of our protagonist Alice (of course!) is the author of a wildly successful book and TV series about time traveling brothers, and thus an expert on the mechanics of the business. But first, well before he has a chance to explain about time loops and wormholes and multiverses and whatnot, we find him unconscious in a hospital bed, approaching that ultimate time machine, death. It is Alice’s 40th birthday, a wormhole if ever there was one, and along with confronting her beloved father’s mortality, she is contemplating her own life at this juncture: single, with a serious boyfriend she’s not about to marry, living in the same studio apartment in Brooklyn that she’s had since college, working at the posh private school she attended where she’s now vetting the children of her former classmates (including her teenage crush).

For her birthday, Alice arranges to have dinner with Sam, her lifelong best friend, a happily married mother of three, whose gift is a framed photograph of the two of them at Alice’s 16th birthday party, “both wearing tiaras and slips and dark lipstick,” Sam with “a beer bottle in her hand, and Alice . . . taking a drag off a cigarette.” (The photo is transporting, you might say, but not yet.) On her way home Alice stops at an old haunt, Matryoshka, a Russian-themed bar in the 50th Street subway station, and you can just feel the magic, like the dark and the liquor, beginning to gather strength. Did I mention that it’s October? “A good month to confront death,” Alice later observes, “this was why Halloween worked.”Read the full post at the Washington Post.

© Literary Affairs, 2005-2023. All Rights Reserved.