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1 Burnside Literature- A to Z

Game of Secrets (Random House Reader's Circle)


Game of Secrets (Random House Reader's Circle) Cover



Reading Group Guide


My novels  start  in pieces—on the  page  for months—fragments of character, story, scene. I write longhand, in notebooks  or on scraps of paper, the backs of receipts, the leftover white space of a grocery list—which I then  transcribe into  my  laptop.  Some  of those  first thoughts are imagined, some are stripped from  real life. But out of those pieces of raw material, I begin to map a story. I don’t polish up my early drafts. I leave some passages entirely without punctuation. I leave things untidy, open to change. That  openness, I feel, is criti- cal. I find  that  when  I can let myself stay open  to possibilities in a story  that  I may not  yet have uncovered, when  I can let myself be driven by what I do not yet know, the story often turns,  deepens, in un- expected, revelatory ways.

Game of Secrets started with four primary fragments—the real-life story of a skull that surfaced out of gravel fill with a bullet hole in the temple, and three images: a fourteen-year-old boy driving fast down an unfinished highway; two lovers meeting in an old cranberry barn; and two women playing Scrabble. I did not know their names. I did not know the details specific to their lives, but I could feel the under- currents of tension between them.

The image of the Scrabble game hit me especially hard. Not just because the unfolding of the mystery in the novel mirrors the play- ing of a Scrabble  game:  clue after  clue is revealed,  the  story  comes together  piece by piece like a puzzle, as in Scrabble, disparate letters are arranged into words, which in turn are arranged into a larger co- gent  grid.  That image  hit  me  hard  because  I  have  always  loved Scrabble. I grew up playing with my grandmother. She taught  me cards  as well—pitch, gin,  poker,  bridge.  But it was Scrabble  that  I loved. I remember the thrill I felt when I was old enough to keep my own letters,  to have my own rack. We  would play with my father after lunch and, after a game or two, my father would drift off to something else. “You want  to  play again,  Nana?”  I’d ask. And my grandmother would  nod,  light  another cigarette, and start  flipping over the tiles. We would play game after game. Until it was time for her to fix supper. Then  we’d eat, clear the table, wash the dishes, I would dry them for her, then I’d ask to play again.

The idea  for  Game  of Secrets came  to  me  years  after  she  was gone.  The story  has nothing to do with her  life; the  women  in the story are not modeled after her, but the sense of my time with her— generational,  intimate,  lost—is strung  all through  it. As I wrote, I remembered  those long childhood hours: the stillness of the house, the light tick-tack as she lay down her tiles, the smell of her cigarette balanced   on  the  ashtray,   just  resting   there   untended, dwindling down.

And I remembered, too, things she had taught me over the years as we played. She played Scrabble for the words, as many women in her generation  did. I always played for the numbers.  How we play that game can reveal so much about how we tick, how we live, who we are. In Scrabble,  some play to keep the board  open,  some play to shut it down. Some play with an eye to the sum of the total scores of all players;  some  play,  simply,  to  maximize  their  own  score.  Most players will look at the board  and see the words that  fill it. But a really good player, a canny player—and she was one of those—will also see opportunity in the skinny spaces still left open  in between.

As I wrote the scenes for Game of Secrets, the game for me became the  perfect  lens  for  a story  about  two  women  and  their  families bound  together  and divided by unspeakable secrets—a brutal past, a murder, a love story. Because what are words if not a bridge—in a game of Scrabble  or in a novel? Between  one person  and another. Thought and reality. Past and present,  present  and future.  Words bridge  silence. Words, and the stories  they comprise, bridge  time.

Product Details

Tripp, Dawn
Random House Trade
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
7.9 x 5.1 x 0.57 in 0.44 lb

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Popular Fiction » Suspense

Game of Secrets (Random House Reader's Circle) Used Trade Paper
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