Games We Played

September 1, 2020

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.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Shawne Steiger

  1. What feel­ings did this book evoke for you?

  2. What do you think the author’s pur­pose was in writ­ing this book? What ideas was she try­ing to get across?

  3. 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?

  4. 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?

  5. 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?

  6. 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?

  7. 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?

  8. 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?