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.