All Our Wrong Todays: A Novel Summary & Study Guide

Elan Mastai
This Study Guide consists of approximately 75 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of All Our Wrong Todays.
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All Our Wrong Todays: A Novel Summary & Study Guide Description

All Our Wrong Todays: A Novel Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on All Our Wrong Todays: A Novel by Elan Mastai.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Mastai, Elan. All Our Wrong Todays. Dutton, 2017.

Tom Barren serves as the fictional author of a memoir recounting his experience traveling through time and altering reality. He continuously begs the reader’s forgiveness, claiming he is not a very good writer, but one tactic he (or rather, Mastai) uses effectively is continuous cliff hangers. As the novel opens, all we know is that Tom claims to be from some highly advanced alternative reality complete with hover cars and robot butlers, but somehow he jeopardized all this and is now stuck in our version of reality. While most memoirs are written in past tense, Tom tells his story primarily in present tense, only slipping into past tense when describing something that occurred prior to the current narrative. This decision about tense adds to the feeling that things are constantly being altered, and there is not one single version of reality that is set in stone.

Tom continues to reveal details of his old world and the life he had there. In 1965 a man named Lionel Goettreider developed an engine that produced unlimited energy, providing the inciting incident for the high-tech future Tom would eventually be born into.

Tom’s father, Victor, is a stoic scientist intent on cracking the mystery of time-travel, and his mother, Rebecca, seemingly exists just to make Victor’s life more comfortable. Tom describes himself as a bit of a loser with no real motivations. However, when Rebecca dies due to a random hover car accident, Victor offers Tom a job in his lab as an understudy to one of the “chrononauts” (time-travelers), Penelope. Penelope is extremely driven and for the most part politely ignores Tom, but from the the few words they do exchange, Tom falls in love with her. The night before Penelope is set to be the first person to travel back in time, she sleeps with Tom, who gets her pregnant, meaning she can longer go on the mission. In a deep depression, Penelope kills herself. Rather than let Tom go in her place, Victor puts the program on an indefinite hiatus.

Filled with anger and sadness, Tom sneaks into the lab and sends himself back in time to the pre-programed destination of a basement in San Francisco where Goettreider first turned on his engine. It works, but while there, Tom is spotted by Goettreider who reflexively shuts off his machine, creating an unintended energy field and inuring everyone else who was there to witness it. Tom is able to turn the engine back on before he is automatically sent back to the present, preventing more damage, but when he returns he realizes something is irrevocably wrong.

Tom returns to a world much different from his own, and readers recognize the description as our own world. Here his name is John Barren, his father is kinder, his mother is still alive, and he has a sister, Greta. While exploring people from his previous life on the internet, hoping to find them still alive, he finds Penelope. While she is undoubtedly born to the same parents, in this reality she goes by Penny and is more gentle and open. She and Tom quickly fall in love, and it appears as though she truly believes his story of being a time-traveler.

One morning though, Tom looses control of his mind and body, replaced by John Barren, the version of him from this reality, who fought through to regain control. John is depicted as Tom’s evil alter-ego; he rapes Penny and leaves her crying. Soon, Tom regains control, but Penny is too shaken to simply take his word that he is not schizophrenic, meaning that “John” is a part of who he is and could come back. She asks for proof of his story of time-travel before letting him back into her life.

In order to get proof, Tom sets out to find Lionel Goettreider and see if he remembers Tom appearing that day in 1965. Tom finds him in Hong Kong, and it turns out Goettreider had been expecting him for years. Goettreider realized Tom had somehow altered the flow of history, and thus forces him to go back and fix it. Back in 1965, Tom tries to move so he will not be visible and set off the chain of events that affected reality, but there are too many consciousnesses fighting for control of his mind and body: there is Tom when he went back the first time, Tom currently, John, and a version of himself from a much darker, post-apocalyptic timeline who somehow also traveled back in time to this moment. Tom (the version of himself who is narrating) realizes the best he can hope for is to return to the altered version of reality he just came from, and through some precarious maneuvers, he manages to do exactly that.

Goettreider is unhappy at first, but soon comes around to this version of reality. Tom, his family, Goettreider, and Penny start a business together in order to distribute Goettreider’s engine to the world, ushering in the version of the future from Tom’s original reality. Everything ends on a happy note with Tom and Penny having a baby.

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