Friday, July 18, 2014
Review - The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger
Susan Rieger's debut novel, The Divorce Papers, is the story of an affluent New England couple's divorce told, literally, through their divorce papers. When Maria "Mia" Meiklejohn Durkheim requests divorce representation from the law firm of Traynor, Hand, the only associate available to perform her intake interview is young criminal attorney Sophie Diehl. Sophie is content with criminal law and abhors the thought of working face-to-face with clients. Unfortunately for Sophie, Mia takes an immediate liking to her and refuses to accept representation from anyone else at the firm. Despite her hesitation, Sophie sucks it up and spends the better part of 1999 learning the ropes of divorce law firsthand.
Nothing much happens beyond discussions of offers and counteroffers, custody of the Durkheim's daughter, Jane, and general marital discontent. However, the main character of this book is really Sophie, and we learn tidbits about her personal life throughout the novel. As Ms. Meiklejohn and Dr. Durkheim's divorce continues through , Sophie struggles with interoffice feuds, boyfriend trouble, and the ways that divorce seems to permeate her own life.
Lacking a heavy plot, The Divorce Papers leans instead on its unique format. Personally, I didn't mind this trick. I quite enjoyed not knowing what I would find on the next page - an e-mail, an office memorandum, a note from a flower shop, a legal document? It was definitely enough to move the story along for me. And the insights we receive about Sophie from e-mails to her best friend Maggie and letters to her parents were a pleasant bonus beyond the drama of the Durkheim's divorce. At times the legalese and documents were boring and repetitive, but I didn't want to skip anything that might end up being important. Overall, The Divorce Papers is a simple, fun read that peeks into the lives of the parties involved in a high stakes divorce, presenting a conventional narrative in a moderately unconventional way.