Games We Played - Shawne Steiger
"Games We Played" follows the story of Rachel Goldberg, a thirty year old Jewish actress who becomes the target of online "nazi" bullies after giving a radio interview in relation to her current play. Rachel is also in a toxic relationship with another lady and has a complicated history with her childhood friend Stephen, Stephen has been in the army and was brought up by his German grandfather who was very racist and derogatory towards Jews and other races.
I originally found this to be a slow burner, I felt that the novel really came alive during the second half and I had lot more empathy for the characters during this part. Although Rachel is the main character of the novel, all of the other characters seem equally as important, enticing and crucial to the story; Gladys, Aaron, Rose, Liz, Stephen. I feel it takes a talented and polished writer to be able to achieve that.
The reason I gave the "Games We Played" three stars was due to the first half feeling quite slow and repetitive as well as seeming disordered at times, I felt that a lot of the same themes and references came up time and time again, I sometimes felt like the plot needed a bit more to it. I also found myself having to go back and reread pages to check who people were and if I had missed something as a lot of the novel is cryptic at first. Having said that this was mainly just for the first half of the book.
Shawne Steiger has clearly researched her topics well and that did come across with her references to war, trauma and the online bullying Rachel suffers. It is also clear that she has researched or has experience of the way that trauma can manifest itself in someone, the self destructive attitude it can create and the process of healing. I felt empathy for both Rachel and Stephen throughout the novel and wanted them to have happy endings.
For me the second half of the novel made it worth reading and I would recommend it to readers interested in trauma, racism and division.
Trigger warnings: abortion, sexual abuse and racism.
Disclaimer: I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.