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. Read more...
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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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-11-18
- Reviewer: Staff
In Rieger’s clever and funny debut—an epistolary novel told through memos, e-mails, and letters—Sophie Diehl is a criminal lawyer, working for a law firm in the fictional state of Narragansett in New England, similar to Massachusetts. As she says herself, “I like that most of my clients are in jail. They can’t get to me; I can only get to them.” One of the firm’s managing partners asks her to do an intake interview for Mia Meiklejohn Durkheim, daughter of one of the firm’s most important clients, whose husband served her with divorce papers at a local restaurant. Sophie reluctantly acquiesces and has to learn how to handle a divorce case (rather than a criminal one), while juggling family dynamics, nasty interoffice politics, and the ups and downs of her own romantic life, all as the year 2000 approaches. Lovers of the epistolary style will find much to appreciate. Rieger’s tone, textured structure, and lively voice make this debut a winner. Agent: Kathy Robbins, Robbins Office. (Mar.)
One person's breakup is another's big break
An epistolary tale told through emails, interoffice memos, legal documents and handwritten notes, The Divorce Papers is a witty and engaging first novel from author Susan Rieger. As is obvious from the title, the book features a divorce at its center. However, Rieger makes it about much more as she covers topics ranging from childhood trauma and fresh romances to office politics and literary theory.
Sophie Diehl is a criminal law associate living in New England and apprehensively approaching her 30th birthday. She is horrified when her boss hands her a divorce case on a week when the firm’s experienced divorce lawyers are away; she prefers the minimal-contact work she specializes in and, as a child of divorce herself, wants nothing to do with handling one. But when her efforts to extricate herself from the case fail, she finds herself immersed in the extremely bitter marriage dissolution of Mia Meiklejohn (her client) and her wealthy oncologist husband, Dr. Daniel Durkheim. The case involves not only infidelity and dramatic clashes, but also a troubled 10-year-old daughter.
While this plot might sound like an overwrought soap opera with a chick-lit slant, the execution is funny and intelligent. Rieger herself went to Columbia Law School and has worked as an attorney and university administrator, and her prose—peppered with literary, historical and philosophical references—is whip smart. And although there is no traditional narration, the reader becomes well acquainted with Sophie and her inner world, particularly through emails sent to her best friend Maggie, her new boyfriend, her parents and her charmingly erudite boss, David Greaves.
The narrative flow does stumble at times, particularly when several pages of full legal documents are presented; while Rieger obviously has a great enthusiasm for the intricacies of the law, some readers might find these sections tough to slog through. But overall, The Divorce Papers is a sharp read and an impressive debut.