The eightieth book I read in 2014 was The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger. This book is Rieger’s debut novel. I finished this book on 9/8/14. I rated this book 5 stars out of a scale of 5. This book centers mostly around Sophie Diehl, a criminal attorney at a firm in New England. Sophie is asked to do a favor for one of the partners in her office and complete the intake interview for a prominent client’s daughter who was just served with divorce papers by her husband of eighteen years.
As the story develops, we are brought into not only Sophie’s life but also the Durkheim’s and the Meiklejohns’. Told through emails, handwritten letters, memos and legal motions and other documents, this story of divorce and Sophie’s part in it is both riveting and fascinating. As Sophie struggles her way through litigating this divorce (she’s a criminal attorney, not a divorce attorney) she also tries to overcome how much this divorce reminds her of her parents own divorce. She begins to realize how traumatized she was by that experience, so much so that seeing The Durkheims’ daughter Jane go through the same process is heart-breaking to her.
And as Sophie continues to help her client (Mia) through the divorce as best she can, Sophie also has to deal with what has become a relationship issue as well. During the story she meets a man named Harry and forms an attachment to him. Little does she know that he isn’t exactly available. Sophie also deals with her issues with her parents, after an embarrassing encounter and follow-up email to her boss.
Overall, this was just such a great book. I know not many people enjoy books written in this style (epistolary) but I find them to be extremely interesting and fun. Though a little confusing at the beginning, once you get into the story its easier to get a hang of who the players are in this book. I thought Sophie’s character had great depth and I loved diving into her psyche. And Mia’s character was just perfect, she was hilarious and her jumble of emotions was portrayed excellently. While I might not recommend this book to everyone since the style might not be suited for all, I loved this book and was hooked pretty much from beginning to end. I didn’t want to put it down! I hope to see more from this author in the future, very well done!!
Link to Wikipedia page on epistolary novels: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistolary_novel
The author does not currently have her own website, therefore I will include a little blurb About the Author:
SUSAN RIEGER is a graduate of Columbia Law School. She has worked as a residential college dean at Yale and an associate provost at Columbia. She has taught law to undergraduates at both schools and written frequently about the law for newspapers and magazines. She lives in New York City with her husband. The Divorce Papers is her first novel.
Also I just love it when books have the book discussion questions. I’d love to be a part of a book club again someday, and I love that there are so many books out there now that you can access the book discussion questions online. If anyone who has read the book would like to discuss one of the questions below, please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts!!
1. Is Sophie a good lawyer? Why? Why not?
2. At the beginning of the novel, Sophie feels she’s “treading water.” Why does Sophie seem to be having so much trouble finding her way? How does this change as the novel progresses?
3. Both of Sophie’s parents are European. How has that influenced who she is?
4. Why does Maggie put up with Sophie? Would you?
5. Is Dr. Durkheim the book’s “villain”? Why do you think he wanted a divorce? Do you think he knew about Jacques? Did your opinion of him change over time?
6. Mia confesses she initially withheld some information from Sophie. She also has a flair for the dramatic and loves to tell a good story. Do you believe her version of events? In an epistolary novel, how do you decide who is a reliable narrator?
7. Are Mia and Daniel equally to blame for the failure of their marriage? Do you think their marriage could have been saved?
8. Mia loved living and working in New York City, but she moved to New Salem for Daniel and his job. What were the trade-offs at that time? Do they seem worthwhile in retrospect?
9. What do you think was going on at the firm with Fiona? Why was she so hostile toward Sophie at the beginning? Did you agree with Fiona that her reprimand was unfair? Sexist?
10. Will or Harry?
11. There are three father-daughter relationships, all difficult: Mia and Bruce Meiklejohn; Sophie and John Diehl; Jane and Daniel Durkheim. Do they change over time? If so, what makes the change happen? If not, what is the sticking point?
12. There are two mother-daughter relationships: Elisabeth and Sophie and Mia and Jane. In what ways are these stronger than the father-daughter relationships? Weaker?
13. What do you think of the decision to give custody to Bruce in the event Mia dies before Jane is eighteen? Was Mia right to insist on that? How do you think Daniel felt?
14. Is the separation agreement fair and reasonable? Who came out better, if anyone?
15. What’s next for Mia? For Sophie?