Book Review: The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger
Published by: Crown/Random House, 2014
An epistolary novel is a rare thing for me. I can only remember reading two other ones. I wanted to try The Divorce Papers because it seemed a little different, an interesting look behind the scenes, or should I say, in the locked file cabinets, at a law firm. It didn’t disappoint. Here’s the basic plot of the story:
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.
This was pure fun to read. It was as if I was snooping in all the memos, legal forms, emails, and confidential papers of a real client I might know from the media. I was privy to how much money the client’s husband made and, thanks to the smart lawyer, Sophie, I knew the strategy of how the wife was going to get the maximum out of her soon-to-be-ex-husband.
I liked the character of Sophie. She had a good heart. She didn’t have an agenda when it came to the opposition. She wasn’t out for revenge on behalf of her client. She sincerely tried to get an equitable division of the assets and an amiable agreement between husband, wife, and the child. Although Sophie was inexperienced when it came to divorces, she was smart enough to study the law and also ask for advice. Sophie was also tough and she had her own way of getting justice and the best possible outcome for her client.
It wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but it was quite humorous. I kept going from one document to the next. It was addictive and it satisfied my inner snoop.
This is the first novel for this lawyer turned novelist. I sure hope it won’t be her last book. I’d read more.