Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger


Dear Readers,

Author Susan Rieger has undertaken the complicated task of telling the story of Mia and Dan Durkheim's divorce, along with an insightful look into the personal life of Mia's lawyer Sophie Diehl all through the "papers" -- legal documents, memos, emails and transcripts of the case.  It is the format itself, not the subject, that first caught my reader's eye.  Most of us have encountered some fiction work which has relied heavily on letters to convey the characters' thoughts and actions.  Some are successful, some not so.  Very few novels rely on the documents alone to be the narrator.  One of my favorite middle school novels, a delightful graphic novel ( one I frequently shared with students) told the life of sixth grader Jenny through the notes, report cards and even store receipts that littered her household.  As a group, we had fun piecing together just what was happening in her life.

Author Rieger expects adult readers to do the same "piecing together" in this novel, but in order to the tell the whole complex story of Mia's life leading up to the divorce, there is too much information that must be shared through letters and memos.  In most novels, we would have either Mia or Sophie or both as narrators which would allow us better insight into their thoughts about Mia's past.  In the very least, readers would witness some type of face to face encounters between the two that would not have to be translated to a written report or transcript.  Even a phone interview would have given more life to the tale.

Then there is the is whole subject of young lawyer Sophie.  The author's decision to make her a criminal lawyer who is coerced into taking this civil divorce case gives a convenient avenue to insert lots of documents about the business end of divorce, but this twist adds another layer to the story that I found lacking.  Mostly I felt Sophie's correspondence with her boss was poorly done.  Both her emails and office memos smacked of being inappropriate, mixing business, personal ramblings, and office flirting.  Certainly if there was an office crush, wouldn't the flirting take place in the break room or at the water cooler rather than through the printed word? And while it is probably true that an aspiring lawyer would spent most of her time consumed by work, distilling her entire personal life down to a series of emails between herself, a girlfriend and her dates fell flat for me.  Mia and her husband's prominent place in the society's upper crust makes this divorce a touchy one and the eleven months of transcripts and documents show just how complicated.  Whether or not you are interested enough to read of them to learn the whole story (and Sophie's story ) will be entirely up to you.  I received a copy of this title from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS for my review.  All opinions are mine.

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