Witty and wonderful, sparkling and sophisticated, this debut romantic comedy brilliantly tells the story of one very messy, very high-profile divorce, and the endearingly cynical young lawyer dragooned into handling it.
Twenty-nine-year-old Sophie Diehl is happy toiling away as a criminal law associate at an old line New England firm where she very much appreciates that most of her clients are behind bars. Everyone at Traynor, Hand knows she abhors face-to-face contact, but one weekend, with all the big partners away, Sophie must handle the intake interview for the daughter of the firm’s most important client. After eighteen years of marriage, Mayflower descendant Mia Meiklejohn Durkheim has just been served divorce papers in a humiliating scene at the popular local restaurant, Golightly’s. She is locked and loaded to fight her eminent and ambitious husband, Dr. Daniel Durkheim, Chief of the Department of Pediatric Oncology, for custody of their ten-year-old daughter Jane–and she also burns to take him down a peg. Sophie warns Mia that she’s never handled a divorce case before, but Mia can’t be put off. As she so disarmingly puts it: It’s her first divorce, too.
Debut novelist Susan Rieger doesn’t leave a word out of place in this hilarious and expertly crafted debut that shines with the power and pleasure of storytelling. Told through personal correspondence, office memos, emails, articles, and legal papers, this playful reinvention of the epistolary form races along with humor and heartache, exploring the complicated family dynamic that results when marriage fails. For Sophie, the whole affair sparks a hard look at her own relationships–not only with her parents, but with colleagues, friends, lovers, and most importantly, herself. Much like “Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” “The Divorce Papers “will have you laughing aloud and thanking the literature gods for this incredible, fresh new voice in fiction.
The epistolary novel is my very favorite form of writing. There’s something so inherently personal about the format; it naturally lends itself to a deeper connection to the characters. Ordinarily. Even though The Divorce Papers is written in the epistolary format, there is a pervasive air of aloofness throughout the pages, leaving a wall between reader and character.
The Divorce Papers follows the acrimonious separation and marriage dissolution of David and Mia, an upper-class New England couple. Sophie Diehl, Mia’s lawyer, a criminal attorney, reluctantly takes the civil case against her better judgement. Emails and letters ad workplace memos tell the story from the perspectives of all involved – lawyers, parents, and even the divorcing couple’s 11-year-old daughter. But the story is about more than just one divorce. It also reaches back to the history of Sophie’s parents’ divorce; an event that has had a critical impact on her romantic and family relationships.
I liked the book, but I found it complicated and confusing at times. There are a lot of legal papers mixed in among the emails, letters, and memos; I read some, but mostly I skimmed or skipped over those pages. I think the thing that I disliked most was the distance I felt between myself and the characters. I missed a stronger understanding of and connection with all of the principles.
All in all, I enjoyed The Divorce Papers. It was written in a format I always enjoy reading, which went a long way toward influencing my opinion.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Thanks for the thoughtful heads-up. I’ve loved the epistolary format for books after falling in love with A Woman of Independent Means, and had already heard about this book and planned to add it to my TBR pile. I may still do so, but as a more informed reader now than before your review posted. Appreciate it.
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