In Scrabble Lessons, characters who have confined themselves to comfortable patterns are suddenly thrown off their games. A young woman trying to control her impulses won’t slice the pricey tomato her lover left on the windowsill, but can’t stop dissecting the relationship. A successful radio personality turns up on her brother’s doorstep carrying all the old family baggage and a terrible new secret. A poetry chapbook with an unusual cover reawakens passion in a lonely insurance broker, while the ordered pattern of a Scrabble game—225 squares, 100 wooden tiles—becomes an anchor in a world tossed by grief and uncertainty.
In this debut collection, set in Winnipeg, Leslie Vryenhoek draws us into the desires of those who are easily overlooked: the chary cook at a home for pregnant women who grieves the transition from nuns to social workers; a down-on-his-luck labourer in Winnipeg’s inner city who wants to ride a stolen bicycle; the middle-aged woman, demoralized by family obligations, who lets a fast-talking chocolate salesman in the door.
These are stories about the longing that gnaws at our most ordinary days, and about those rare moments of acute certainty, even joy, on which whole lives can pivot and change course.