Book Review: The Game of Love & Death by Martha Brockenbrough

A stunning and powerful story about life, love, and the beautiful meaning of death, Martha Brockenbrough’s The Game of Love and Death is a timeless book for readers of all ages.

Game of Love and DeathAntony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now . . . Henry and Flora.

For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.

Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?

Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured — a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.

The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, The Game of Love and Death is a love story you will never forget.

This book struck me on a very deeply personal level — hitting on topics that have been knocking around in my head for a while now, and offering a new level of clarity on the subject of death and dying that I have been longing for.

You see, my husband and I have been talking about death a lot this past year. We’re not trying to be morbid, but it’s one of those topics that comes up as you’re starting a life together — especially given that we very suddenly lost his aunt about a year ago. We talk about what will happen when we lose our parents; we talk about needing to write formal wills and make plans for our last wishes and know what the other wants, should the worst happen. All responsible, adult things — and all horrible topics to discuss. Not having a strong faith in any sort of spiritual or religious manner, I often find myself overwhelmed with very morose and sad thoughts about what happens after we die. I find myself often paralyzed with fear over just the thought.

And so, when I read Brockenbrough’s beautiful story about Love and Death, and how together they make life worth living, and the lovely way in which Death cradles those she has come to take, I found myself weeping in wonder. Yes, I thought. Yes, this is something I can believe. This brings me comfort.

But even beyond this comforting portrayal of Love and Death, Brockenbrough’s book is just a gorgeous piece of literature. The Game of Love and Death features some truly beautiful passages; Brockenbrough’s gift for turning a phrase is just so lovely, and I often found myself lingering over certain words and sentences just for their sheer beauty.

And then there are the characters. The Game of Love and Death offers a timeless couple; you want Henry and Flora to come together; you want their love to endure. It’s a timeless, end-all, be-all love that makes its mark on the world — and their romance is beautiful and honest and raw. But so, too, does Brockenbrough imbue the characters of Love and Death with so much honesty and passion and lovely flaws.

The Game of Love and Death knocked me over with its powerful message, beautiful love story, and gorgeous writing. It is in stores now.

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