Review+Giveaway: The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger

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.

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 

Debut novelist, Susan Rieger, mixes law, family and separation to tell a beautiful tale rich with insight, humor and unsettling suspense. Divorces can be sweet and thrilling too?

Imagine this: You specialize in criminal law at a big firm. You don’t necessarily get your raison d’etre practicing it. But you do it because there is no other field in law you find worthy enough. Now a big time client has brought in a case everyone specializing in civil litigation would jump at, the separation of his daughter from her husband after seventeen years of marriage. Now there’s a divorce, and there’s a divorce. So much money, so much wealth, so much property to divide which could turn nasty. No one wants to drag a divorce to the courtroom, especially the husband who can’t wait for his philandering days (with a dermatologist) to begin. A senior partner approaches you with the case because all other divorce lawyers are booked with others jetting away to visit their parents. Just an interview with a client, he tells you, no big deal. You take him up on his offer, sit through the interview with the daughter. Now all you can think of are her gestures, her humor, her references to good ol’ literature, her sophistication, her so-not-behaving-like-a-woman-who’s-being-legally-separated-from-her-husband behavior.

But still you wouldn’t take the case if you are begged to.

Then you are demanded to. You think your boss is inconsiderate when he knows your past with divorcing parents. You have to take the case, no other option for you.

Now you are dangling in the mess of a divorce. Undergoing civil litigation training, dealing with aggravating lawyers and endless negotiations, getting a whole sense of déjà vú when an eleven year-old daughter of the couple comes into the picture, fighting off opposition at work from the other office bitch who specializes in divorce cases but didn’t get this because she was off to her parents, dating a super-sweet stage-actor introduced to you by your brilliant stage-actress friend, wondering if your best-selling writer mum is “misbehaving” with your boss, dealing with clients tearing at each others throats in every sense of the word, wondering why your parents had to part away, wondering why your dad would never show any interest in you or what you do for that matter, feud after feud, negotiations after negotiations, back-to-stage-one after back-to-stage-ones. Life gets hard and hectic, as much as you try to make time for your personal life──there’s one thing, you can only keep in touch through emails. Emails everywhere, as if the pile of letters from the mail of your firm aren’t enough. Your life is as messy as a divorce.
Until you manage to sort it out, it would stay that way for over a year.

Sophie Diehl’s hectic life, summed up for your undivided attention.


This book made me have blast! Like a grenade blast! I ah-dored every piece of it. But this blog isn’t about me, it’s about you. So this why you would love, love this title.
It’s beautiful in every sense of the word, the writing style. I loved that it was an epistolary. I have never, ever read one of these titles before. Or perhaps I have, but they weren’t as memorable as this. Divorce, social life, professional feuds all embraced in this epistolary, to give it a real feel. An effect some books with dialogue struggle to achieve.───

The storyline was perfect. Uh-huh, Uh-huh──the storyline! It was surprising because I said earlier, written in an epistolary, blah, blah, it did have a storyline that can be easily related to. Who hasn’t gone through a divorce, or at least seen one? The effects it has on its participants and the children── even the pets! It’s mind-blowing how all this was captured in this title. The fact that it was an epistolary yet left nothing untold is what would make lovers of Women’s Fiction (and other genres) grab this title. Portrayed so real with depth that made it feel so true to life, I wonder if I’m shrieking about a storyline or rather a lifeline. ───

The characters in this book truly had character. I couldn’t believe anyone could execute a piece written from start-to-finish in letters but still embody the unique traits of each character. Through letters, you could tell you were reading about a strong, successful yet self-conscious Sophie Diehl. Through her letters, you could predict Maggie Pfeiffer, Sophie’s friend was the kind quick to admonish, advice type. Through her letters, you could tell Maria Meiklejohn, the client was well-poised, well-read, sharp, embodying every elegant, firm mother in their forties. Jane, the eleven year-old daughter, stuck between the divorce was intelligent, precocious, confused and hurt (much like every child in the midst of parental wars). Elisabeth Dreyfus, aka Maman, aka Sophie’s mum, was French, funny, sophisticated, exotic, and someone you’d like to take to lunch and listen to. Daniel, the client’s husband, was a moron. David, the boss and trainer, was firm but playful. Harry, Sophie’s sort-of-boyfriend, was an asshole in gentleman’s clothing. Fiona, the office bitch, was well, an office bitch. It’s a characterization party in there all through letters and I could go on and on. I loved each and everyone of them───

The suspense in this book was riveting. I really wanted it to end, end, end or at least take a little break. But it kept increasing as things got complicated and complicated. I found myself rooting for Maria, hoping, praying she squeezes a chunk out of her SOB husband. If this is how divorces are, I’m not sure I have the heart to go through one. Stick with your partners (Ouch, no pun intended).───

As I said earlier, this book felt more of a literary piece than a book, more of a masterpiece than a literary piece.  References to classics that stole the hearts away of many born in the seventies and beyond (would go look ‘em up), all the subtle humor, the wisecracks, again, the writing style and the voice of each character, was breathtaking. Authors hardly get it write on their debut, but not debut novelist, Susan Rieger.───

I talk a lot. No news. That’s why, I’m further going to:

Give this book: a whooping Five stars

Tell you to: Go buy this book in hardcover because kindle just doesn’t do it justice on....

Give you a chance to: Win one of Two Hardbacks of The Divorce Papers from Crown Publishing, Random House

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Recommend this book to: Anyone who has been through a divorce or not. Anyone who wants to find the topic of divorce interesting, insightful as well as damaging and perhaps an opportunity to let go of the past and begin anew. Anyone who loves a well-written piece. Anyone less interested in material with fluff. 

My work not done here. Off to post my review on Goodreads.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent write up, the book should be a very interesting read.