Games and Rituals: Stories (Hardcover)
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AN OPRAH DAILY BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR • The beloved author of Early Morning Riser brings us glittering stories of love—friendships formed at the airport bar, ex-husbands with benefits, mothers of suspiciously sweet teenagers, ill-advised trysts—in all its forms, both ridiculous and sublime.
"Parts of my heart are still scattered throughout these perfectly rendered tales.” —Lisa Jewell, #1 New York Times best-selling author of Then She Was Gone
The games and rituals performed by Katherine Heiny’s characters range from mischievous to tender: In “Bridesmaid, Revisited,” Marlee, suffering from a laundry and life crisis, wears a massive bridesmaid’s dress to work. In “Twist and Shout,” Erica’s elderly father mistakes his four-thousand-dollar hearing aid for a cashew and eats it. 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 and 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?”)
Katherine Heiny, one of our most celebrated writers, our bard of waking up in the wrong bed, wearing the wrong shoes, running late for the wrong job, but loved by the right people, has delivered a collection of glorious humour and immense kindness.
About the Author
KATHERINE HEINY is the author of Early Morning Riser, Standard Deviation, and Single, Carefree, Mellow, and her short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and many other magazines. She has lived in London, The Hague, and Boyne City, Michigan, and now lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with her husband and children.
“Katherine Heiny is back with Games and Rituals, a delightful bundle of offbeat dramedy fiction. Heiny grabs readers from the jump… “Chicken-Flavored” sets a precedent that carries on throughout the collection, making the ordinary extraordinary while saying just the right things to elicit a surprised but delighted snort.”
“From the author of Standard Deviation comes this charming collection of stories of everything from airport bar friendships to ex-husbands to hearing aids.”
–The New York Post
“Much of the world spent a year or two or three enclosed with the people we were supposed to be most intimate with. It seems only natural then that the interest now would be to put those relationships under scrutiny. Heiny’s new story collection tests the limits of these relationships over and over again, challenging the institutions of family and marriage… Heiny captures the domestic tension perfectly.”
–Chicago Review of Books
“The opportunity to read a new short story by Katherine Heiny always fills me with delight. I know I’m going to laugh; I know I’m going to be slightly shocked by a deliciously inappropriate joke or line of dialogue; I know I’m going to laugh some more; and I know I’ll probably have my heart broken just a little bit.”
–Jennifer Close, Electric Literature
“Unlikely bedfellows, cherished companions, and makeshift collectives are some of Heiny’s literary hallmarks, and for lovers of short fiction, it is pleasant to think of collections as comprising their own kinds of communities, even families, each story a cousin to the next, floating around in a gene pool of sorts.”
–Washington City Paper
“Charmingly amusing stories… What’s so funny? Most of Games takes place in everyday landscapes, among middle and upper-middle class Anglo types – not always a fertile scene to explore. (Well recently, especially? This is not the wokest of crowds!) However, Heiny has a knack for making lemonade out of lemons; these tales tend to run away with themselves, and you won’t find yourself poorer for it.”
–The Arts Fuse
"I already loved Katherine Heiny, but this exquisite collection of short stories puts her firmly in my top ten favourite writers of all time. Her ability to throw a character into three fully-alive dimensions within half a paragraph is astounding and possibly unparalleled. I wanted every story to be continued into a long-form novel and parts of my heart are still scattered throughout these perfectly rendered tales of quirks and foibles, damage and redemption and the things people do just to make it through another day. This book, and the people within its pages, will stay with me forever."
—Lisa Jewell, #1 New York Times best-selling author of Then She Was Gone
"Games and Rituals, full of relatably weird characters discovering their self-deceptions, proves her to be the most pleasurable architect of the short story form writing today… Her radar for people’s eccentricities is exquisite."
—Jessie Thompson, Independent
"Heiny has an amazing ability to give you a picture of someone’s life in a snatch of dialogue and an anecdote…hilarious…These are the perfect phrases – funny and recognisable and a tiny bit melancholy– that Heiny can apparently turn out by the dozen…I could quote 50 lines that I noted, and still not get to the end of the joys of Heiny’s writing style – a voice “like glass beads rolling on a snare drum” and the perfect conversational couple: “he can’t hear and she doesn’t listen”. It’s possible Heiny thinks of herself as primarily a short story writer; her true fans know better and need another novel. But in the meantime, this very funny collection, with its razor-sharp observations on life, will do to keep readers happy."
—Moira Redmond, iNEWS
"Witty, astute and delightfully accessible."
—Lucy Atkins, Sunday Times
"Heiny has the comic writer’s knack of taking a character’s idiosyncrasies (…) and making them joyfully relatable. (And she can say more in a pithy parenthesis than many writers manage in a page.) She has a genius for spinning universality out of the absurdly specific."
—Lisa Allardice, Guardian
"Finding a new book by Katherine Heiny is a like discovering a Wodehouse you haven’t read or a Raymond Chandler. You pretty much know what you are going to get and that’s the very reason your spirits perform a happy little jig as you press 'buy now' …. Superb ... as near perfection as, say, Donald Trump is far from it… Heiny is habitually congratulated for writing feelgood stories, but if these pointed, satirical, emotionally ruthless takes on humanity merely made me feel good, I wouldn’t value them half as much. If you spot a new Heiny story anywhere, do email me."
—Andrew Billen, The Times
"For any reader yet to encounter Katherine Heiny, this sparky new story collection provides a joyous introduction....The deadpan delivery, the bittersweet wisdom, the sublime farce – it’s all here."
—Hephizbah Anderson, Observer
"Anyone who has read any of Heiny’s previous work will know she has a knack for capturing all the vicissitudes of love in a way that few other writers can. Games and Rituals is no different, bringing the minutiae of our everyday interactions to life with humour and clarity."
—Anna Bonet, iNEWS
"Short stories sometimes leave you wanting more but each one in this collection is as satisfying as any novel… All human life is here and Heiny exposes its complexity with wit and poignancy."
—Joanne Finney, Good Housekeeping
"I’m a devoted fan of Katherine Heiny. I’ve foisted her wonderful novel Standard Deviation on so many people and this collection of short stories is destined for the same treatment. I can’t think of another writer who manages to gets so under the skin of her characters....These might be short stories but each one contains multitudes."
—Sarra Manning, Red Magazine
"Heiny approaches her disarmingly charming characters with tenderness, empathy, and humor, even (perhaps, especially) when they meander outside the bounds of good behavior. Lighthearted and amusing yet deeply resonant, these stories offer sly insights about human connection and can, in the space of a single sentence, take your breath away....For Heiny fans and those just discovering her naughty, generous-spirited fiction, this collection is bound to spark considerable joy. It’s a keeper. With this irresistibly amusing, bighearted collection, Heiny again proves she is a master of the short story form."
—Kirkus, starred review
"Heiny’s funny and touching collection...finds drama and disruption in the everyday....The clever title story, broken down into vignettes, centers on a young woman who makes up games to play with her friends and boyfriend....Heiny’s keen observations put a shine on these everyday comedies."
"Heiny's distinctive story collection portrays varied characters navigating shifts in their lives and relationships, from the disquiet of unrequited love to the shockof infidelity....Poignant and searching, Heiney’s collection strikes emotions and realizations head on."
“Heiny keeps a fine and appreciated balance in her exploration of human foibles ripe with the humorous, cringy, self-compromising situations life presents… showing that life is awkward and is also strangely sweet and can offer little moments of reprieve, joy, and camaraderie, sometimes in the places and people we least expect… Honest stories generous in their portrayal of how all are just trying to connect.”