The millennial midlife crisis has arrived.
Yes, while you’ve been telling avocado toast jokes, older millennials have quietly and with great trepidation entered their 40s. Given that they can’t afford houses, never mind sports cars, what does a millennial’s midlife crisis look like? In Emma Straub’s award-winning new novel “This Time Tomorrow” (Riverhead, 320 pp., ★★★ ½ of four, available Tuesday), she’s a bit like the movies they grew up in, with a hint of travel in time to give it flavor. raises existential dread.
Alice Stern’s father is dying. That’s tough on any daughter, but it’s hitting Alice particularly hard as she approaches a crossroads of midlife: She’s about to turn 40, she suspects a man she doesn’t want to marry is proposing to her, and she still can’t. decide if you want to have children. despite a rapidly ticking biological clock. She can’t seem to make up her mind about anything definitively, and her only constant in her life, the single father who raised her with unwavering if imperfect love, lies unconscious in a hospital bed.
‘The Summer Place’:Jennifer Weiner’s New Book Is So Good It’s Hitting Every Beach This Summer
“There was supposed to be an advantage to adulthood, right?” Alice reflects. “The period of your life that was yours and that other people did not choose for you?”
It doesn’t help that she’s still at the exclusive private Belvedere School where she spent her teenage years, working admissions, where she decides which of her former classmates’ children make the cut. Alice’s sense of arrested development kicks into high gear when her unrequited teenage crush walks through her office door with a beautiful wife and young son in tow.
All those intense teenage feelings come flooding back, complicated by regret for paths not taken. Could this have been her life if she had told the cute boy with Jordan Catalano’s lush hair how he felt?
May’s Best Romantic Comedy says:Emily Henry’s ‘Book Lovers’ and Casey McQuiston’s ‘I Kissed Shara Wheeler’
He gets a chance to find out when, after a drunken night out on his 40th birthday that ends with him passing out in an empty guardhouse, he wakes up to find himself in his childhood bed at his father’s house, with 16 years again. The guardhouse, he discovers, is a time portal. On one hand it’s his 16th birthday and on the other hand it’s his 40th, and the changes she makes in his past are reflected in his future. It’s eerily similar to “Time Brothers,” the sci-fi novel about time-traveling siblings written by her dad, which made her dad a popular staple at nerd conventions.
What would you change if you could go back to 16? Would you sleep with your crush at your birthday party? take drugs? Shave your head? Ask your father to quit smoking? Tell him you love him more?
Alice does it all, trying to engineer a happier future, one that doesn’t include her father on his deathbed on his 40th birthday. With each trip back to the age of 16, she understands better her father, who seemed so old when she was a child, but now seems so young.
“Alice and her father had always been very good friends,” Straub writes. “It was luck, she knew, sheer luck, that gave some families complementary personalities. Many people spend their lives wanting to be understood. All Alice wanted was more time.”
“This Time Tomorrow” is technically a time travel book, but not like Alice’s father’s book. Straub isn’t all that worried about the mechanics of time travel, the butterfly effect, or killing baby Hitler (or whatever the 1990s equivalent of that moral test is). Straub cares about love: its different forms and expressions, how it evolves over time, and how we can be better at giving and accepting it.
Love, too, for his own father, the horror novelist Peter Straub, whom he thanks in the acknowledgments “for receiving this book as it was intended, as a gift.”
Because even if you could go back and change everything else, love would still be the same.
Management of expectations:Minnie Driver writes about life, Hollywood (and Harvey Weinstein)