Book Review: The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger

divorcepapersTitle: The Divorce Papers
Author: Susan Rieger
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher: Broadway Books
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from Library Thing
Number of pages: 461

Goodreads blurb: 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.

I read a lot of novels. (Like you didn’t already know that!) Because of how much fiction I read, I always enjoy it when an author finds a new way to tell a story. Epistolary fiction is one of my favorite genres – when it is done right. And Susan Rieger has figured out how to do it right, adding in the modern twist of e-mail. As someone who has never been divorced (knock on wood), I found the whole idea fascinating – what does a divorce look like from the attorney’s point of view? How does working on a divorce affect this attorney’s worldview, her opinions of people and marriage, the things she thinks she knows about her own personal history? Sophie has a history of dealing with divorce from her experiences when her parents split, and so she has a very strong reaction to the people and issues in the case. This allows the author to give you not only the story of Mia and Daniel’s divorce, but Sophie’s personal journey as she navigates the world of high-stakes divorce litigation.

Susan Rieger was able to give each character such a unique feel, simply from how they chose to write their e-mails, memos, and notes. Sophie and Mia are two very strong women, but strong in different ways. I loved both characters, and especially loved some of the ways Mia reacts to the steps her husband takes in the divorce – reacting as an independent, capable woman who is not going to let this man destroy her and her child. I am so glad that the author also included notes from Jane, notes to her father and grandfather, which gave the reader an inside view on how this divorce process was tearing her apart, causing her to be afraid and insecure and to doubt the very people who are supposed to protect her and make her feel safe.

There is a lot to love in this book, and I only had one minor quibble that kept me from giving it five stars. Some of the portions of the legal papers were simply too long – I felt they could have been summarized a bit more, and found myself skimming a lot of the legalese. But these sections didn’t make up a huge part of the book, and didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment.

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15 Responses to Book Review: The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger

  1. Sheila (Book JOurney)
    Twitter: bookjourney

    I read this one too and agree… I had to skim some of the legal papers… 🙂

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Sheila – I could NEVER be a lawyer and wade through all of that legal-ese!

  2. Belle Wong
    Twitter: msbookish

    I love epistolary fiction! This one sounds interesting – adding it to my to-read list.

  3. Trisha says:

    I’ve enjoyed the three or four epistolary novels I’ve read, and this topic does sound interesting, I may have to give this one a try.

  4. Michelle says:

    It’s been a while since I’ve read this one, but didn’t they highlight certain passages in the legal paperwork? I remember having to force myself to read all of it and not just the highlights.

    I loved this format. I was amazed at how much of a story you could tell through legal papers, memos, transcripts, notes, and emails to connect them. It was creative and refreshing. You could read as little or as much as you wanted.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Michelle – Yes, on some of them they had highlighted sections, and I only read those parts. That was when they were quoting legal code, I think. But in some of the divorce documents themselves, the legal-ese also got to be a bit much. I still really enjoyed it, though, and I hope she uses a similar format for her next novel.

  5. Jeane says:

    I think I’d be interested in this one to see the issues from an opposite perspective- having just gone through a divorce myself- but it’s still too recent, I would probably have a hard time with that book right now. Maybe in ten years or so!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Jeane – Yes, probably a bit too fresh right now. I hope you’re doing okay!

  6. Melissa
    Twitter: avidreader12

    I’ve had my eye on this one! It sounds good. I tend to love epistolary novels (Attachments, Guernsey, Ella Minnow Pea) so I’ll have to check this one out.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Melissa – I loved Attachments and Guernsey, but have never read Ella Minnow Pea – will have to check it out!

  7. Beth F
    Twitter: BethFishReads

    I like the sound of this one! I would probably skim the legal papers too.

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