I love this book. It is a love letter to Southern Black communities and the people in them who keep each other afloat.
Who hasn’t dreamed of what they would do if they won the lottery? Who hasn’t dreamed of being able to not worry about bills and make sure their people don’t have to worry about them either? Miri starts the book broke, digging a hole in the ground so that her elderly neighbor can bury some extra cash. She lives with her mother in a rental house neglected by the landlord. On the way home, she stops by the corner store (the lucky one, two people have bought winning lotto tickets there in 20 years) and buys tickets for herself and her mother, even though she thinks it’s a foolish waste of the little money they have. She wins an enormous amount of money and then discovers her estranged husband could sue her for half her winnings.
As soon as Leo hears Miri say she needs him to come see her, he quits his under the table construction job and hits the road. He hopes that she wants him back. When she offers him a lump sum settlement in exchange for a divorce, he asks for some money for his sister and some money to repair his late aunt’s home. And then he starts looking for opportunities to woo Miri.
Play to Win feels like a perfect summer book. It’s languid, and the summer heat is ever present. Things unfold slowly while Miri and Leo try to unstick themselves from the past. The way they slowly move to make decisions and rethink their past feels both heartfelt and realistic. Miri and Leo’s friends and family are there to love them, support them, and call them on their nonsense. Community makes them stronger.
I loved every minute of reading this. Slaughter dives into the pain of generational poverty, the pain of abandonment, and harmful ideas about gender roles, guilt, shame, forgiveness, joy, and community. She does it all with with enormous compassion for her characters and razor sharp dialogue.
I received this as an advance reader copy from St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley. My opinions are my own, freely and honestly given.