Rachel Goldberg has worked hard to distance herself from her past. Raised in a household that included an overbearing Orthodox Jewish grandmother, Rachel’s lifestyle is nothing like her formative years. But her progressive views do more than separate her from family. Rachel tries to ignore it when she is initially harassed online, but when the threats shift into real life, she can no longer ignore the danger. Stephen Drescher has hit a bit of a rough patch. His dishonorable discharge from the military casts a pall over his entire life. Hoping to find some peace, Stephen looks to his childhood for comfort. Although they remember their childhood differently, Stephen and Rachel’s history has shaped their lives. To move forward, Rachel discovers that she has to reconnect with and solve issues from her past, even if it means dredging up painful memories.
Games We Played
September 1, 2020
Courtesy of Shawne Steiger
- What feelings did this book evoke for you?
- What do you think the author’s purpose was in writing this book? What ideas was she trying to get across?
- Gladys is angry at relatives in Germany who did not want to leave family heirlooms behind. When she is koshering the kitchen, she tries to throw away Rose’s platter that was a wedding gift. Rose eventually gives Rachel that platter and she tries to use it as a weapon when she is frightened. Are there things in your own life that are loaded with meaning and history? Are there things in your life that would make it hard to walk away, even if you felt your life was at risk?
- How did you feel about Stephen by the end of the book? Do you think he will make different decisions in the future? Why or why not?
- Is Gladys a sympathetic character? Why or why not? How did you feel about her by the end of the book? Why do you think her religion was so important to her?
- This book suggests that trauma can be intergenerational, passing down from grandparents to grandchildren. When you think about your own grandparents, are there things you struggle with today, or things that really matter to you that came from their life experiences?
- Why do you think Gladys fed the dog, even though she didn’t like dogs? Why do you think the dog in the SPCA was so important to Stephen? How did you feel about the fact that he never got the dog?
- Both Rachel and Steven blame family members for the pain in their lives. What does this say about what they needed or wanted from their families? From each other? How do they reconcile themselves with blame in the end?
Jewish literature inspires, enriches, and educates the community.
Help support the Jewish Book Council.