Thursday, July 3, 2014

Review: The Divorce Papers

Summary: Sparkling and sophisticated, this sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking debut novel tells the story of a 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 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.

A rich, layered novel told entirely through personal correspondence, office memos, e-mails, articles, handwritten notes, and legal documents, The Divorce Papers offers a direct window into the lives of an entertaining cast of characters never shy about speaking their minds. Original and captivating, Susan Rieger’s brilliantly conceived and expertly crafted debut races along with wit, heartache, and exceptional comedic timing, as it explores the complicated family dynamic that results when marriage fails—as well as the ever-present risks and coveted rewards of that thing called love. -- Crown

It's been awhile since I read THE DIVORCE PAPERS by Susan Rieger. If I'm being entirely honest, I haven't been looking forward to writing this review. I didn't exactly love this novel and I would even go so far as to say I was a little disappointed with it. Prior to picking up THE DIVORCE PAPERS, I had read some pretty positive reviews of the book, and the book's description sounded like a book I'd love. I figured it was a no brainer for me to read it.

THE DIVORCE PAPERS tells the story of Sophie Diehl. Sophie is a 29 year old attorney who mainly works on criminal law cases at a New England firm. One day, Mia Meiklejohn Durkheim, the daughter of one of the firm's largest clients, comes in to discuss her divorce case. All of the major players are out of town so Sophie gets stuck with her intake interview.

Mia was served divorce papers at a popular restaurant... in front of everyone! Needless to say, she's furious and wants to fight her husband for everything, especially their 10 year old daughter. While Sophie repeatedly tells Mia that she's never done divorces and isn't skilled enough to handle one of this magnitude, Mia insists that Sophie take her case. As far as she's concerned, it's the first divorce for both of them! As Sophie learns to navigate the paperwork and minutiae of the divorce case, she also begins to evaluate her own life and the relationships in it.

It's possible that my expectations for THE DIVORCE PAPERS was just too high. However, I still think this book had so much potential. I loved the premise and there were more than a few times when I had hope for this novel. There was humor and depth to the characters and their stories, and I appreciated seeing how Mia and Sophie evolved throughout the divorce proceedings.

Sometimes I can't put my finger on why a book didn't work for me, but that's not the case with THE DIVORCE PAPERS. I know exactly why this book was hard for me to read. It was the amount of "divorce papers." I guess the title and the cover should have been a clue for me. A large amount of this novel was the paperwork that was filed in the divorce -- from lawyers, courts, judges, etc. I found it to be extremely tedious and I even got frustrated with the sheer volume of legal documents. Unfortunately for me, it ended up actually taking away from Sophie and Mia's stories.

THE DIVORCE PAPERS does have a reading guide with some thought-provoking questions. I do think the book has potential as a discussion book if readers aren't bothered/intimidated by the paperwork. Many of the characters in this novel, both major and minor, are quite interesting and will provide some food for thought. In addition, you might want to explore divorce, love, friendship, parent/child relationships, honestly, jealousy, and fairness.

Overall, I didn't love THE DIVORCE PAPERS; however, there were some insightful moments and I am certain this book will resonate with some readers.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) said...

I read this one a few months ago and really liked it. I totally understand how the actual legal papers wouldn't appeal to everyone. But, I found them interesting and informative...maybe because I'm a child of divorce and it was nice to finally know some of the ins and outs of the legal side of things!

bermudaonion said...

Hm, the legal papers might bug me too - I wonder if other people skimmed them.