Games and Rituals by Katherine Heiny

Games and rituals book cover

Rating: 4/5

What It’s About:

The games and rituals performed by Katherine Heiny’s characters range from mischievous and edgy to tenderly touching.

In “Damascus,” a mother fears her teenage son is making the same youthful mistakes she did, only to realize that he is wiser than she had understood. In “Twist and Shout,” Ericka’s elderly father mistakes his four-thousand-dollar hearing aid for a cashew. In “Turn Back, Turn Back,” a bedtime story coupled with a receipt for a Starbucks babyccino reveal a struggling actor’s deception. And in “561,” Charlene pays the true price of infidelity when she is forced to help her husband’s ex-wife move out of the family home. (“It’s like you’re North Korea and South Korea… But would North Korea help South Korea move?”)

From one of today’s most accomplished bard’s of modern life–of waking up in the wrong bed, wearing the wrong shoes, being late for the wrong job, but being loved by the right people–a fresh and satisfying work of glorious humour and immense kindness.


The Review

Thank you to Knopf and Net Galley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Short story collections are a category that I have been wanting to read more often. Games and Rituals did not disappoint. The most memorable thing about this collection is how real the characters and relationships were portrayed. It frequently felt like these characters reminded me of myself or someone I could possibly know in real life. Each of the stories included small details in the thoughts, actions, and settings that was so much fun to witness.

There is a nice balance of sincere emotional connection, relationship struggles, and humor. The inclusion of different types of relationships (not all of them were romantic) and characters of varying ages and circumstances was engaging. I also loved the exploration of connections between parents and children, two of my favorites were “Twist and Shout” and “Damascus”.

Games and Rituals is also the first book I’ve ever read that had the COVID lockdown as the setting. The story “Pandemic Behavior” took me back to everything we experienced during that time. The pandemic was a time of much fear and uncertainty, but looking back at it through this lens made me laugh at all the different ways we tried to survive such as hoarding toilet paper and disinfecting groceries.

Final thoughts

Games and Rituals was a wonderful short story collection that pulled at my heartstrings, with many sweet and funny moments. While some stories were less fulfilling than others, the majority of them were enjoyable. This book reminded me alot of the show Modern Love on Prime Video. If you are a fan of the show, you might enjoy Games and Rituals.

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear what you thought.

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