The Story Game
A transcendent, profoundly imaginative memoir that explores the complexities of sisterhood, the cost of expectation, and the power of storytelling to shape—and ultimately repair—a life.
What was that game we used to play when we were children? We played it every night, before things went wrong between us.
It was a story game, wasn’t it?
In the humid dark of a eucalyptus-scented room, a woman named Hui lies on a mattress telling stories about herself to her listener, a little girl. She talks about her identity as the child of an immigrant, her feelings about being in a mixed-race marriage, her opinions on mental health. But as the stories progress, it becomes clear that a volatile secret is lurking beneath their surface. There are events in Hui’s past that have great significance for the person she’s become, but that have gone missing from her memory. What is it, exactly, that is haunting Hui? And just as importantly—what is the room that Hui is lying in? Who is the little girl she keeps talking to? And who, actually, is Hui herself?
As the conversation continues, what unfolds is a breathtaking and unexpected journey through layers of story toward truth and recovered identity; a memoir that reenacts, in tautly novelistic fashion, the process of healing that author Shze-Hui Tjoa moved through in order to recover memories lost to complex-PTSD and to, eventually, reconstruct her sense of self. Stunning in its originality and intimacy, Tjoa’s debut memoir The Story Game is a piercing tribute to selfhood and sisterhood, a genre-shattering testament to the power of imagination, and a one-of-a-kind work of art.
Shze-Hui Tjoa’s The Story Game is a patient excavation of selves: not the I of today, but the version before and the one before that, flawed and flawing, all the way back to childhood, reaching through history and memory to dust free so many cruel reflections. Ardently exquisite, Shze-Hui Tjoa tenders astonishment with blushing tenacity.
—Lily Hoàng, author of A Bestiary
Reading this, I forgot about the real room I was in. I felt fully contained in the invented room separating The Story Game’s chapters. In The Room, Shze-Hui Tjoa makes make-believe serious the way children do—but she does it by playing with the memoir genre. As her storytelling progresses, she plunges, as the greatest writers have, to The Depths, revealing how the artistic process transforms her understanding of mind and body. Her ascent into The World is startling and powerful. After I read it, I felt a new world of creative possibilities opening. The Story Game is hyper-specific yet ethereal, serious and funny. It’s mesmerizing.
—Jeannie Vanasco, author of Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl