[Without question Dawn Tripp (The Season of Open Water, Moon Tide) is a literary artist weaving both subtle shadows and bold, clear-cut emotions into her most recent novel, Game of Secrets, just released in paperback last week.
The author’s poetic, yet realistic prose can transport readers’ minds into a different state of consciousness — a state that Dawn seeks for herself in explaining why she writes.]
10th grade English. It was winter, snow falling through the windows outside. And our teacher Mr. Rossiter was talking about a poem by T.S. Eliot. I don’t remember what poem it was. I don’t remember what he said about it. But I will never forget the passion in his face, his eyes lit, as he spoke about that poem. And I remember thinking to myself: when I grow up, I want to write something that makes someone feel THAT.
From the time I was a child, I hung around with people who didn’t exist. Whether I met them through the books I loved, the stories I fell into, or whether they came to me out of the elsewhere place where the Muse lives. From the time I was a child, I wrote. I would look at something as simple as a pool of sunlight on a leaf and it would begin to form itself into words in my head. Or I would see a man in Boston Common sitting on a park bench, and I would begin to construct a story about why he was sitting there, where he had just come from, where he was going.
My novels start as tiny glimmers—of character, story, scene. When those pieces surface in me, I feel them—not with my mind, but in the body—they have a certain feverish intensity, a certain dreamlike immediacy—they feel alive. And I begin to write into them, longhand at first. I’ll fill a notebook with these fragments even if I can’t yet see—with my daylight mind—how they will all come together.
To me, secrets are key to strong storytelling. And by ‘secrets,’ I mean those things that strike closest to the heart—things we cannot always look at head-on, and yet they move in us. Even buried or barely glimpsed, they impact our lives in ways both explicit and oblique. My characters and their secrets—the sense and burn of them—always come to me before the plot—they drive the story. And I write to discover things about them: about what they want, fear, hide, remember, dream, what they will not let themselves dream.
In Game of Secrets, one of the most powerful characters for me was Huck as a fourteen-year old boy. I saw him first as that boy, driving fast down an unfinished highway in a stolen car—heat in his hands on the wheel thinking about a girl. And I wanted to know: Who is that? What does he want? What drives him? Who is that girl he’s thinking of? I fell into the novel through that scene—which in the paperback appears on pp. 113-115. Huck is not the main character of Game of Secrets, but he impacts the lives of the three women the novel revolves around. And for me, as a writer, Huck was a galvanizing force. He is deeply flawed—even as a boy, he has that James Dean kind of doom about him, and he grows up to be a man whose insular views and past stand for things that are easy to dismiss or disdain. I didn’t see that coming, and it broke my heart a bit. I wanted more for him. When he first appeared to me as that boy in the car, driving, he was like fire underground, and I wanted him to get out from underneath the dark weight of the life he had been born into. And as I wrote the story, that hope drove me. Even when I began to learn things about him I wished I didn’t know, I couldn’t quite outrun that raw and simple desire he felt once not just for that girl, but for the freedom of a dream she stood for.
When the burn of a story is in me, it’s always with me. Whether I am out for a run with the dog, picking my kids up at school, folding laundry, it’s like a parallel skin laid over every other thing. It’s like being in love. It’s like having the flu. It’s a fall-off-the-cliff kind of feeling—liquid silver in the veins—that rush of air and speed through space. And I have to be honest. I live for that state.
Jane Weld was eleven years old when her father, Luce, disappeared in 1957. His skiff was found drifting near a marsh, empty except for his hunting coat and a box of shotgun shells. No one in their small New England town knew for sure what happened until, three years later, Luce’s skull rolled out of a gravel pit, a bullet hole in the temple. Rumors sprang up that he had been murdered by the jealous husband of his mistress, Ada Varick.
Now, half a century later, Jane is still searching for the truth of her father’s death, a mystery made more urgent by the unexpected romance that her willful daughter, Marne, has struck up with one of Ada’s sons. As the love affair intensifies, Jane and Ada meet for their weekly Friday game of Scrabble, a pastime that soon transforms into a cat-and-mouse game of words long left unspoken, and dark secrets best left untold.
Reviews and Praise:
“Drop-dead Yankee storytelling . . . Elizabeth Strout fans will find a lot to admire about Game of Secrets, cleverly framed around the idea of revealing old family mysteries through a continuing series of Scrabble games.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Like a Faulkner novel, Game of Secrets weaves in and out of time. . . The varied points of view and fragments are rendered with such poetry, each sentence is a pleasure.” —The Providence Journal
“A gracefully told character study of three intelligent, forbidding women and the men who love them, wrapped up in a taut, suspenseful mystery.” —Booklist
“A page-turning thriller—a game of Scrabble helps two families spell out the history of a small-town murder.” —Better Homes & Gardens
“A combination of thriller, mystery, and literary fiction; the secrets of a murder are revealed through an intense Scrabble game…An intelligent beach-read.” —Boston Phoenix
Although there is even more, Caroline Leavitt, bestselling author of Pictures of You describes the novel best:
“A hypnotic literary mystery . . . Startlingly original, Dawn Tripp’s haunting novel explores the secrets we keep even from ourselves.”
TRUTH: Game of Secrets is a gorgeous novel about the games people play with themselves and each other. However, by including an ongoing game of Scrabble, the author’s use of this unique element allows the storyline to develop and unfold to an end that’s almost certain to surprise. This is a book to savor for its characters, plot, description, and mystery. As lush and beautiful as a perfect summer day, Game of Secrets will be enjoyed in the present and become a memory keeper in the future.
For your instant gratification, please read an Excerpt.
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Game of Secrets by Dawn Tripp — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight! The winner will be notified by email tomorrow.