WASP-y Wednesday: The Divorce Papers

Posted 19 March, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

WASP-y Wednesday: The Divorce PapersThe Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger
Published by Crown/Archetype on March 18th 2014
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Humorous, Literary
Pages: 496

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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 trapped behind bars. Everyone at Traynor, Hand knows she abhors face-to-face contact, but one week, with all the big partners out of town, Sophie is stuck handling 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. Mia is now locked and loaded to fight her eminent and ambitious husband, Dr. Daniel Durkheim, Chief of the Department of Pediatric Oncology at Mather Medical School, for custody of their ten-year-old daughter Jane. Mia 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. The way she sees it, it’s her first divorce, too. For Sophie, the whole affair will spark a hard look at her own relationships—with her parents, colleagues, friends, lovers, and, most important, herself.

So, personally, I enjoyed most of this book. It’s stylistically unique in that it’s written solely in legal memoranda, e-mail, statutes, and other legal documents. (I think there’s even some faux case-law in there.) The primary story – the divorce between the upper middle class Durkheim’s is interesting enough but some of the secondary stories seem extraneous and don’t add a whole lot to the narrative. Mainly, the love-life of Sophie just feels contrived and maybe something put in there to appeal to the ‘chick-lit’ crowd.

The story of Sophie’s parent’s divorce added to the book, it’s easy to see the author was drawing parallels between the Durkheim divorce and the impact that Sophie’s own parent’s divorce had on her as a child. That sub-plot was thoughtful and interesting.

My other concern with this book was that at points it felt like lazy writing. Since most readers who are not trained or employed in the legal field have very little experience reading case law and statutes I think that this could be a bit off-putting. Most readers aren’t going to take the statutes in the book and then actively apply them to letters from the client to try and guess how Sophie will structure the divorce negotiations – it seemed like filler. Personally, I just skimmed these sections they didn’t add anything to the narrative. I felt the same way about the divorce worksheets that appear several times throughout the novel. Lists of assets, requests for alimony, it’s snooze-ville for a ‘regular’ reader… give the reader (the same way you would a client) the big picture.

It’s difficult to figure out who to recommend this book to. Legal professionals may not want to come home from reading legal-ese all day to read a novel filled with it, people outside the legal profession might find it too full of jargon to follow easily.

I enjoyed it well enough… maybe you will too?

April @ The Steadfast Reader


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