Thursday, July 26, 2012

Game of Secrets by Dawn Tripp — 272 pgs

In 1957, Luce Weld disappeared and was never heard from again. His wife and young daughter believed that he abandoned them, not caring enough even to say goodbye. That notion held until the day a skull with a neatly placed bullet hole tumbled out of the gravel pit that was being dug out for renovations to the new bridge. Local lore had it that it was Ada Varick’s jealous husband who left Luce dead, and nobody denied the story. Years later, Luce’s granddaughter Marne has come back to town and is desperately trying not to fall in love with Ray, one of Ada Varick’s sons. This leaves Marne’s mother, Jane, at the edge of an emotional cliff, trying to win back her stubborn daughter’s love while also dealing with the repercussions that come with Marne’s increasing interest in Ray. As each day passes with more and more of Jane’s attention shifting to the exact nature of what happened to her father, Marne draws ever closer to Ray only to dart away, time after time. But old Ada Varick isn’t to be counted out just yet, and as she and Jane while away each Friday afternoon playing Scrabble, Jane plays a cat and mouse game with her father’s one-time lover. But as the tiles laid down—over and over again—they will spell out not only the fates of the lives of the present, but all the secrets of the past as well.

There were a lot of things to love about this novel of feelings and wordplay. I think the first thing that drew me in was the sultry feeling of both the backstory and the current tale. There was a deeply sensual and mysterious feeling to these words, and Tripp manages to make her prose slow and golden, like honey dripping from the jar. It took a little time for all the players to be introduced, but the spaces between them felt well laden and charged with emotion and resonance. I lingered over the lyrical prose and felt that even though the story was moving along slowly, it was a dance of heartbreak and passion, told from many different angles and perspectives.

Though the game between Ada and Jane has been going on for many years, there was a timeless feel to the interactions that the women had both on and off the board. There was a gentle tease that secretly wasn’t so gentle, a feminine rivalry that was tinged with love and respect, and a spine-tingling secret that both women were trying to discover as they fished for letters. There was a sharpness to Ada Varick that was never able to be softened by Jane, and a hardiness and sweetness to Jane that could never be undercut by her partner. Often, the play between them felt like a cat and mouse game, and as the book progressed, it became clear that that’s exactly what it was. One sly and one demure, these two women were at odds not only over Luce, but over the future of their children as well.

When the secrets start spilling out, the reader is left to make the stunning connections between these very different families with only a gentle and well-placed touch by the author. Everything hangs in the balance of these games and the secrets they will reveal. As game after game is played, unspeakable tragedy comes to light and lovers move slowly together in the turn of a play and the linger of a kiss. The novel’s suspension is built on the past, and this is what drives it forward into the future, honing in on the relationship between mother and child, and the lingering  heat between lovers. The past echoes the future and the future holds keys to the past, everything intertwining in a delicate balance of love and hatred.

One of the main aspects of this tale takes place in the present, in the form of the relationship between Ray and Marne. A girl with wings to fly, it seems, will never stay put, and a man who will never leave his hometown seem destined not to survive a relationship, much less a battle of wills. But Marne has been harboring some troubling feelings for Ray for a long, long time, and when she finally has what she wants, right in her hands, she’s in anguish over the history between his family and hers. She also looks askance at her mother’s relationship with Ada and her mother in general. There’s enough heat between Marne and Ray to burn the pages between these covers, but what of the past? What of promises?

The final three chapters of this book blew me right out of the water. I knew there was something hidden to be revealed, but as those games grew more and more intense, and time ran out, I had no idea that Tripp would take me all the way to the finish line with this intense and haunting double ending. But aren’t the best Scrabble games that way? You win not only with one word, as in this case, but with what has been played, over and over again. A stunning and deeply perceptive book. Highly recommended.


This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

19 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

The Scrabble aspect makes this sound very intriguing! Great review!

Dawn Tripp said...

Thank you so much for such an incisive and thoughtful review of GAME OF SECRETS. It means so much when a reviewer captures the soul of the book and my intent. Thank you!

bermudaonion said...

Wordplay and secrets both intrigue me. I really need to get to this book.

Beth F said...

I *knew* you would love it.

Suko said...

Wow! This sounds excellent; the wordplay is such a wonderful aspect. Terrific review, as usual.

Brooke said...

An "intense and haunting double ending" - um, yes please!

Jenners said...

I think I'd love to see how the Scrabble game plays out in this book. Excellent review … as always. You never cease to amaze me with your eloquence and thoughtfulness.

Sandy Nawrot said...

OK I had to come and read this review. I cannot WAIT to read this!

Maryanne O'Hara said...

This book does not disappoint. As Dawn says, nice to read a review that really 'gets' a book.

geosi said...

A stunning book indeed, as it comes through your review. Lovely review.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Glad u liked this one. I thought it was different and very enjoyable as well. Have a great week heather.

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

Sounds like a must have!!! Adding it to my WishList :) Heather, email me your mailing address so I can send you I Hardly Ever Wash My Hands...You won my giveaway! :)
Patti

nomadreader said...

This sounds so good! I love when authors let the reader figure things out. I'm adding this one to my list!

Audra said...

Oooooooooooh! I hadn't heard of this one at all but I'm so adding to my TBR -- this sounds amazing. Twisted, and dark -- you sold me at 'deeply sensual and mysterious feeling' -- yum!! I love the cover too -- striking.

Literary Feline said...

This sounds like a book to be savored. You've definitely caught my attention with your insightful review, Heather. I will have to add this one to my wish list!

Marie said...

wow- sounds amazing! I'll keep an eye out. I love twist endings!

Lisa said...

Great review! I haven't heard about this one yet so I'm really excited to find the kind of book I like to read when I've just finished one I had to work through. This sounds like something I won't be able to put down.

Aarti said...

Ooh, where does the wordplay come into it? I am intrigued by that, and of course the last few mind-blowing chapters!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I'm so glad you loved this book, too, Heather! I can't play Scrabble (or Words with Friends) without thinking of what my plays reveal about me :)

Dawn Tripp's fiction is very poetic, don't you think?

I'd recommend THE SEASON OF OPEN WATER to you; some of the same characters (and the same setting), but a different time period, and can be read separately (and in either order).

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