Julie Ann Wambach, an Arizona resident for fifty years, sets her new book, Games of Make-Believe, in the early Phoenix, Arizona, area where the population by 1990 had grown by seven and half times of that in 1960. During these years, the explosive building boom and rapid cultural changes brought by an influx of diverse people from many other parts of the country imposed a heavy price tag on residents. For Dr. Wambach, a retired college professor whose early writings were primarily in the academic arena, this is her first work of fiction.
Amidst the 1960-1990 Phoenix transformation, the Prince family struggles to create what we now call a "blended family" before they ever heard the term. When a prosperous gentleman convinces her to marry him, Bella's arduous existence suddenly holds the promise of enchantment. Thus begins twenty-eight stories, some in the style of a romantic fairytale, others of a comedy or a tragedy. Together, the stories explore the role of make-believe in a dysfunctional stepfamily trying to make sense of their lives in the changing community around them.
At the center of the family discord is the daughter who Bella's husband brings into the marriage. Renata immediately rejects her new stepmother and two stepsisters. No one knows how to unify this group. As an adult survivor of child abuse, Bella struggles to create a convincing self-identity within her new husband's affluent world. Her take-charge approach to running the family convinces others, but not herself. In an effort to make sense of it all, Bella latches onto a series of religions and pop psychologies, while her husband wholly devotes himself to the intense competition surrounding his flourishing home development business.
A retired college professor whose publications were primarily academic, Dr. Julie Ann Wambach offersher first work of fiction, GAMES OF MAKE-BELIEVE. She was born in Wisconsin to a large family and has always been interested in the dynamics of both her own family and those of her friends and acquaintances.
Having lived in Arizona for 50 years, Wambach knew Phoenix when it was a sleepy community and she watched the changes in size and population makeup as it grew into a huge metropolitan area. How these changes affected families led Wambach to create a work of fiction wherein a family with roots from outside Arizona struggled to make sense of who they were and how they might fit into the this complicated new world.
While their two grown children have settled elsewhere, Dr. Wambach and her husband still live in the Phoenix area.
"Once upon a time, in an old house, way out in the Utah desert there lived many-children. The mother was nice to her own tow daughters. They were her favorites and she treated them like princesses. The mother was nast to the other youngsters because they were stepchildrem. She mad them do all the work, and they hated Horrible Hannah."
Thus starts Games of Make Believe, sounds like a Cinderella tale, well it kind of is in the fact that the main character Bella and life with her stepmother after her father passes away and leaves Bella and her siblings with a woman who doesn't treat them very well. Each of the children eventually leave, at young ages, to make their way in the world. Bella is the last to leave and as the story goes on, the reader learns that Bella marries a man who physically abuses her.
Bella has two children and gets close to her mother in law and eventually divorces her husband and settles in Phoenix Arizona. There she sets up a life for herself, working to create a life for her and her two daughters, until she meets a nice man and marries him. Her new husband has a daughter who never really warms to Bella and this is where the story really starts. Through daily living and successes and failures, this is a story that spans thirty years. To make sense of things in her life, Bella joins different churches and has different philosophies to cope with the dysfunction within this blended family. An interesting story for sure, not easy to read at times but I did enjoy it.
This review was done voluntarily.