Title: Games We Played
Author: Shawne Steiger
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Literary Fiction
When actress Rachel Goldberg shares her personal views on a local radio show, she becomes a target for online harassment. Things go too far when someone paints a swastika on her front door, not only terrifying her but also dredging up some painful childhood memories. Rachel escapes to her hometown of Carlsbad. To avoid upsetting her parents, she tells them she’s there to visit her Orthodox Jewish grandmother, even though that’s the last thing she wants to do. But trouble may have followed her.
Stephen Drescher is home from Iraq, but his dishonorable discharge contaminates his transition back to civilian life. His old skinhead friends, the ones who urged him to enlist so he could learn to make better bombs, have disappeared, and he can’t even afford to adopt a dog. Thinking to reconnect with his childhood friend, he googles Rachel’s name and is stunned to see the comments on her Facebook page. He summons the courage to contact her.
Rachel and Stephen, who have vastly different feelings about the games they played and what might come of their reunion, must come to terms with their pasts before they can work toward their futures.
Rachel Goldberg is a Jewish actress conducting a radio interview and is talking about her recent role in a play. Her strong opinions draw the attention of online Nazis who bully her mercilessly. When they take their bullying too far and paint a swastika on her front door, Rachel becomes terrified. Past memories haunt her and she flees to her hometown to escape. When she reconnects with her childhood friend, Stephen, her ideals and Stephen's clash. Can Rachel find the courage to confront him about what happened in their past and learn to stop the bigotry? Or has Rachel stepped from one minefield to another?
Games We Played is a difficult story but one that is important to read. Racism in our childhood memories stays with us for the rest of our lives, if we don't try to reconcile it in our adulthood. This theme is crystal clear in this book and I applaud Shawne Steiger for embracing this subject matter. The plot is very slow in the first half and speeds up in the second half of the book. I found the beginning hard to connect with the characters and had to take breaks while reading. The characters are well-written with the ability to create an emotional response from the reader. What I loved most about Games We Played is the research the author did so she could accurately describe the debilitating effects of trauma. If you're a fan of The Reader, you'll love Games We Played.
Trigger Warning: Racist language and ideals appear in this story so please be forewarned.
My Rating: 4.25 stars
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Shawne Steiger wrote her first story when she was seven. Over the years, she has been a pizza maker, dressage teacher, house cleaner, and therapist. The one constant in her life has been her writing, which is why, after years working as a trauma therapist, she applied to Vermont College of Fine Arts and completed an MFA in Fiction writing. After learning that she's happiest when writing, Shawne published short stories and essays in several literary journals.
Supporting her writing habit with her social work degree, Shawne frequently incorporates her understanding of how trauma affects people into her fiction. When not writing or working, she enjoys going to the theater, reading and travel. Luckily her love of travel stops her from fully realizing her aspirations to enter the realm of mad cat woman, since she's yet to find the perfect suitcase that will fit all her cats and still be light enough to carry.
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Reviewed by: Mrs. N