Playing Hurt by Gerald Nardella

Playing Hurt by Gerald Nardella is a small novel set in a rural town in the United States in the 60s. The book opens on a football game between two town rivals, where Brian and some of his team are playing the game with injuries. Brian isn’t only worried about his physical pain, but he and his girlfriend had a falling out the night before. Deanie and Brian had been dating for quite awhile, when an argument separated them for a night that would change their relationship forever.

Deanie, a gorgeous member of the “Belles” at their local high school was confused about her relationship with Brian. Due to her need for space, Brian took off with football players to vandalize another team’s field while Deanie stayed back with her girlfriends. LIttle did the girls know, that her old flame was back in town. Bill Slater and Deanie had a past. Bill is an aggressive type, forcing Deanie into his car where he would eventually sexually assault her. Although he let Deanie go at the end of the night, he would reappear at the most inconvenient times throughout the book. Because Deanie and Brian hadn’t really reconciled, Deanie proceeded to give into his physical demands before finally ending it as Bill set off for California. After a bit, she and Brian reconnected, but there was some other trouble brewing. Bill was known to come back into town because he worked for the local cathouse, recruiting women to become escorts in California. Brian hated Bill at first, but his hatred multiplied as the book progressed.
Throughout the novel, readers are centered around the drama between Bill, Deanie, and Brian, but there is burglary, vandalism, and a final act that will shock everyone.  Throughout the mess of these relationships, the author hints at the pressures women face, single parent homes, living honestly, and fulfilling dreams. This book had an average plot with characters that needed a bit more fine-tuning. The author described small town life well, and readers who enjoy drama and vindication may find this book enjoyable.

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