Out of Play
By author: Joy Norstrom
Release Date: October 14th, 2016
Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction
And the hobby in question? Live Action Role-Play, or ‘larp’. Larp involves dressing up as a character (be it medieval knight, banshee or centaur) and participating in imaginary battles for entire weekends.
Gillian is not impressed. She seeks professional advice and is surprised when her therapist encourages her to try larp. “Who knows? It may make you smile. It may make you laugh. It may even improve your sex life. How terrible could it be?”
The advice seems super sketch to Gillian, but she decides to don a costume and give it a go. If larp doesn’t work a marital miracle, Gillian will be able to walk away knowing she tried absolutely everything before giving up.
Will going on her own role-play adventure heal Gillian’s marriage, or will the game shed light on everything that is wrong?
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My heart was pounding out a furious tempo as my burning thighs hammered through the forest. Dodging trees trunks, knobbly roots, and thorny bushes, I kept my eyes trained for any sign of Ralph or of Lauren’s crimson cape receding in the distance. If it weren’t for the seething jealousy fuelling me, I’d have already succumbed to the lactic acid building up in my legs.
My constricted lungs and raspy breath could be attributed to my current lack of cardiovascular health, but truth be told, the agony of rejection was equally to blame. I didn’t need a session with Torres to know I was on the verge of hysteria. Yes, I was being dramatic. Weak and alone and dramatic.
Slowing down, I took a quick look at my surroundings. I’d lost sight of them and I stopped to listen for any clues. I could hear the outbreak of skirmishes in the distance. The grassy meadow where the musicians had played was out of sight, but their music still floated in the air. I could hear nothing closer at hand except the random chatter of squirrels.
A wide swathe of heavy shrub surrounded the meadow and I’d made my way through it at a diagonal, thanks to the help of the footpath. Ahead of me, the trees were thinning out considerably and that was the direction I figured I needed to head if I wanted to continue with my pursuit of Ralph and his…friend.
There. Ahead in the distance. I spotted the bright red of Lauren’s cape peeking out from the foliage. They were travelling towards an area of the campground where I hadn’t yet been.
I pulled the hood of my cloak over my head and held it tightly under my chin as I continued to jog, this time at a slower pace. The trees thinned almost entirely and the land sloped down into a ravine. I found refuge behind a large boulder and, peeking above it, could see an encampment.
Six crimson-and-black marquee-style tents were set up in the valley. Could the colours represent a specific team or army? Yes, I thought so. On one tent hung a banner with the stencilled outline of an eight-legged spider. It was identical to the one I’d spotted on Lauren’s chest plate last night.
Several players were mingling, cleaning off weapons, deliberating over maps. Good God. This was really insane.
Still walking side by side, Ralph and Lauren entered the camp. Ralph turned and laughed at something she’d said. I couldn’t hear what it was, but I could see his profile. Ralph looked relaxed and happy and very much at ease. Definitely not how he looked at home. My heart squeezed. The sound of his laughter was misery; it seemed like years since he’d laughed as easily with me.
And then, to my utter disbelief – although how on earth could I possibly disbelieve anything anymore? – Ralph turned towards one of the tents and held open the entrance flap for Lauren. She entered and he followed.
A terrible stab of pain shot through my core. What was going on? In my marriage. With my husband. In that tent.
Knowing it could very well be anything, from some secret dumb-ass larp strategising all the way to something entirely more intimate, I was overcome with a need to find out. My body started walking, then running, in the direction of the tent. Granted, my frozen heart was still back behind the boulder in child’s pose, likely hanging out with my now-comatose brain (which, honestly, could have put a wee bit more effort into reasoning me out of this). As for my body, it was nearly at the lip of the ravine, ready to hurl itself down towards the tent.
I was so intent on my goal, I didn’t hear the running footsteps. Didn’t hear the whoosh of the boffer or the triumphant yell as the large Styrofoam sledgehammer took me full force in the chest. But I did feel the intense surprise when I was suddenly thrown full force on my back, the air completely knocked out of my lungs.
Heaving on the ground, struggling to catch my breath, I was dimly aware of being dragged back behind the boulder.
Gillian and her husband have entered that phase of marriage where everything is lackluster, ho-hum, no connection. When remodeling her kitchen fails to boost her spirits or amp up her love life, she decides to visit a therapist. So starts this sweet and heartbreaking woman’s fiction novel by Joy Norstrom.
Gillian feels that part of the problem between her and her husband Ralph, is that Ralph is now leaving her every weekend to participate in LARP (Life Action Role Playing) events. His passion and interest is now wrapped up in LARP, and not her. Gillian explains this to her therapist. The therapist gives her the example of how golf-widows have handled their feelings and relationships. The therapist recommends that Gililan try a LARP adventure with her husband to begin to rebuild her relationship with Ralph.
At this point in the story, I had to chuckle because my book series is about a wife and her husband who lose their bond with each other because the husband golfs all. the.time. (Sorry to inject myself into this review, but the similarities in our stories intrigued me.) I wondered- would Author Norstrom follow the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach? Would Gillian try out LARP, love it, and spend the rest of her days wandering lustfully in the woods with Ralph, green paint on her face? Or would she just give up on her marriage?
As Gillian’s therapist said, “I believe that no relationship lasts long when there aren’t any shared interests and there isn’t any fun. Otherwise, you will find it elsewhere.”
Turns out that Gillian, like my book character Charli, learns that LARP or golf are only symptoms and that there are deeper needs and feelings involved which must be focused on. But, while there are serious moments to Gillian’s story, there is much humor, too. (Sorry, but I have to add- that’s how my Charli faces challenges- with a smile!)
Here’s an example of the witty writing in this book.
At a LARP event- “The Kitchen crew moved like a well-oiled trebuchet.”
Out of Play is a thoughtful and well-written story. I loved the cover-one of the best I have seen recently! The LARP part of the book taught me about a world that I knew nothing about, so that interested me. By the end of the story, I had bonded with Gillian as I realized that the old adage is true- we shouldn’t judge someone until we have walked a mile in their moccasins. Some of the nicest moments in the book came from the relationship between Gillian and her best friend Jas. You will enjoy this book; it’s sprinkled with humor and meaning, just like marriage and life. –Jena C. Henry
About the Author:
Joy Norstrom is a Canadian coffee addict. She also happens to be the author of Out Of Play, a women’s fiction novel long on humour and short on romance. She enjoys hiking with family, wine with friends and reading late into the wee hours when she should be asleep.
A social worker by trade, Joy also writes short stories about lives in transition. Whether she is championing inclusion, parenting her kidlets or popping into the local coffee shop, she can generally be found engaged in conversation. Why? She believes human connection and laughter keep her grounded in a muddled world.
Visit all the stops on the Tour:
Hello Chick Lit – Book Excerpt
Steamy Book Momma – Book Promo Post
Kristin’s Novel Café – Book Excerpt/Promo Post
Jena Books – Book Review/Excerpt
Chick Lit Central – Book Review
Book Lover in Florida – Book Review/Excerpt
Appletree Books – Book Review
Grass Monster – Book Review
ItaPixie’s Book Blogger – Book Review/Excerpt Post
Pretty Little Book Reviews – Book Excerpt
I am a writer, blogger, book reviewer, and bon vivant and encourager. I have lived my entire life in Tropical Ohio. My goal is to make friends with everyone in the world. I am writing a fiction series, The Golden Age of Charli, that presents the problems and praises, and the love and laughter of family life and retirement.
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