“[She] watched the light as she waited–how it started in the morning, just touching in that most intimate way the outer edges of things, touching like it swore, I will not go farther, yet by noon already breaking, driving deep toward the heart of the shade.”
Dawn Tripp, GAME OF SECRETS
Dawn Tripp’s GAME OF SECRETS was published last month. I’ve been connected to Dawn on Twitter and Facebook for some time and was intrigued by both the premise of the novel and the positive reviews. A literary mystery, family secrets, a Scrabble Game…these are just some of the descriptions that enticed me to read it, and Tripp delivered.
Set in a small New England town, GAME OF SECRETS is a novel told from multiple points of view in different time periods. Two aged women playing a game of Scrabble with a tangle of shared, unspoken, family tragedies, a pair of young lovers meeting in secret in an old barn, an unearthed skull with a bullet hole revealing a decades-old murder, and a guarded daughter trying to find where she fits into her town and her family provide the framework of the book. The stories weave together through time like the tiles of the game, surprising the reader how they fit together at every turn.
There are some books I love for the characters, the people who seem real enough to step off the page and into the room. There are other books I love for the author’s use of setting as a canvas that sets off the colors of the story like no other background could. Sometimes I love a book for plot and pacing that keeps me turning pages late into the night.
All of these elements are present in GAME OF SECRETS, but if I had to pick what I loved most about this book, it would be the prose. Dawn Tripp’s command of language takes a story that has all of the above elements used well, and further elevates it.
From gentle, sensitive Jane: “…even in dead winter, her favorite season, that certain honesty of winter, all things stripped back to being only what they are…”
From Jane’s turbulent, difficult daughter, Marne: “…I set the blade of my brother’s pocketknife in tight against the binding, I realized: Grafting someone else’s thoughts might just be the fastest way to cut yourself free of your own.”
From Jane’s father, the murdered man: “He could tell her that this dinge of a room where they meet, this brief occasional time, an hour or two at most, this stolen time, is where he lives.”
Every description, every use of figurative language, every theme supports the story around it including the character whose narrative encompasses it.
I found almost all of the characters endearing except one, and even that character had redeemable qualities. I cared most for Marne, even when she was judgmental of and impatient with her mother, because Marne always tried to understand more by pouring over her mother’s notes in an old library book. Marne tried to find the thread that connected her to her mother–a thread that Marne intuitively felt but had a hard time recognizing in her conscious mind.
If you enjoy layered books and elegant prose, I highly recommend GAME OF SECRETS. It will keep you thinking about its characters long after you’ve turned the last page.
For more on Dawn Tripp, visit her website at http://www.dawntripp.com/.