Johanna Copeland’s Our Kind of Game – Trying to Run from the Past

Stella Parker has a perfect life, or so she thought before the walls began to close in on her. After graduating from UCLA, Stella got a law degree from Georgetown University. She married Tom and they have two children, Daisy and Colin. Because her daughter and son mean everything to her, Stella agrees to leave her law firm and become a full time mother. Most of the women in her upscale Arlington, Virginia neighborhood are also stay at home moms, so she fits right in. Except Stella is not like the other women. She is where she is because she managed to escape a horrific childhood. Now her past is catching up with her and she may lose everything.

Johanna Copeland’s mystery, Our Kind of Game, is told by three woman – Stella, Paula, and her younger sister, Julie. The other major female character in the novel is Sharon, Paula and Julie’s mother. Sharon grew up in an abusive household and, which often happens, marries a man who resembles her father. After her husband dies, she has a series of boyfriends who hit her and sexually abuse her daughters. She tells her daughters they are the most important people in her life and she will do anything for them, but she isn’t always there to prevent the violence. On one occasion when Sharon’s boyfriend, Kevin, slaps Julie, she gives her tips on hiding the bruises with makeup.

While Sharon often fails to protect Julie, she is very supportive of her daughter’s efforts to make the high school cheerleading squad. The other girls bully Julie and whisper “slut” when she passes by. Ginny, the worst offender, is sure she will make the squad and is outraged when Julie, a middle schooler no less, makes varsity. Julie, however, will have no chance to enjoy her success. Even though Sharon says that Kevin has left, he shows up at school to give Julie a ride. The unspeakable happens when they arrive home, and Julie takes a page from her mother’s book to get away from Kevin. Julie has no choice then but to disappear.

Stella has one good friend, Lorraine, but her nemesis is Gwen. She finds Gwen’s phone and, after reading some of the texts, learns Gwen is having an affair with Tom. But is Gwen getting close to Tom so she can out Stella? Worse yet, Stella checks her online financials and finds that Tom, to invest in a questionable startup, has siphoned off two-thirds of the money she deposited into the children’s college accounts. Because Stella once dealt in IPOs at her law firm, she’s upset that Tom didn’t check with her before he took such a risk. When Tom is unable to produce paperwork detailing the transactions, she’s afraid Tom is planning to leave her, possibly with Gwen.

Paula left home after she was raped by one of her mother’s boyfriends. She decides to become a police officer to help those, like her and Julie, who can’t help themselves. Despite Sharon’s bizarre and, at times, cruel parenting skills, Paula can’t help but admire her mother’s survival skills. In the end, the three women come together to save themselves.

Copeland’s mystery is, at times, hard to read. We may all know, or at least know about, women who land in abusive situations. If we have resources and people to help, it’s hard to understand why women don’t do what they can to escape. Copeland, through the actions of her female characters, gives us a glimpse into their lives. Sharon does what she can to protect herself and her daughters. She’s both saint and sinner. But Sharon, and other abused women, wouldn’t have to resort to violence to protect themselves if the men around them were not monsters and enablers. 

Our Kind of Game
Johanna Copeland

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About Charlene Giannetti (716 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that had its premiere at WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, where it won two awards. The film is now available to view on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other services. Charlene and her husband live in Manhattan.