The Divorce Papers: A Novel

The Divorce Papers: A Novel

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by Susan Rieger

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Sparkling and sophisticated, this sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking debut novel tells the story of a very messy, very high-profile divorce and the endearingly cynical young lawyer dragooned into handling it.
Twenty-nine-year-old Sophie Diehl is happy toiling away as a criminal law associate at an old-line New England firm, where she…  See more details below


Sparkling and sophisticated, this sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking debut novel tells the story of a very messy, very high-profile divorce and the endearingly cynical young lawyer dragooned into handling it.
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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Sophie Diehl is a criminal lawyer, and she prefers working with the incarcerated. However, filling in for a vacationing colleague results in her handling a divorce case—and not just any divorce case but that of a major client's daughter, Mia Meiklejohn Durkheim. Sophie works through this assignment while simultaneously trying to come to terms with her complicated love life and her own divorced parents. VERDICT This debut novel is written in what the author calls "Epistolary 2.0" through emails, memos, and the occasional note. While this concept is intriguing, the legal documents on Mia's divorce bogs down the pace. Though these items are easily skipped without losing the story line, they are numerous enough to disrupt the flow of the novel. At a certain point, one wonders why these incredibly detailed legal agreements are in the book at all. At the same time, Sophie becomes rather whiny when her family life and love life are not perfect, though there's really not much wrong to begin with. The only saving grace is the character of divorcée Mia, who manages to be funny and real.—Brooke Bolton, North Manchester P.L., IN
Publishers Weekly
★ 11/18/2013
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.)
From the Publisher
“A modern epistolary novel of love, lawyers and email, The Divorce Papers is sharp, clever, funny and unexpectedly tender.”
—Cathleen Schine, New York Times bestselling author of The Three Weissmanns of Westport
“Smart, sophisticated, and incredibly fun, The Divorce Papers brilliantly combines the pleasures of snooping with the delights of great storytelling. I raced through these charming pages and enjoyed every one.”
—Karen Thompson Walker, New York Times bestselling author of The Age of Miracles

The Divorce Papers is terrific fun. I relished every last letter, memo, email, and legal brief in this sneakily clever, insidery peek into the world of privileged families and the lawyers who serve them.”
—Kevin Kwan, author of Crazy Rich Asians

“With a sharp take on the dissolution of a high-profile marriage, Rieger's hilarious debut is sure to be a must-read for the summer—if you can wait that long.”

“Clever and funny... Lovers of the epistolary style will find much to appreciate. Rieger’s tone, textured structure, and lively voice make this debut a winner.”
Publishers Weekly (starred)

“A brutally comic chronicle of high-end divorce... Extremely clever.”
Kirkus (starred)

“Susan Rieger brings her real-life experience as a lawyer to the table in this debut romantic comedy that’s written, refreshingly, in the epistolary style.”

“Witty and engaging... The Divorce Papers is a sharp read and an impressive debut. [Rieger’s] prose—peppered with literary, historical and philosophical references—is whip smart.”

“Where Rieger excels is with her characters. Sophie and her crowd are witty, insightful, and interesting people... [A] refreshing and absorbing read.”

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-12-21
A brutally comic chronicle of high-end divorce told through letters, emails and a huge pile of legal memorandums. This is the first novel from Columbia Law School graduate Rieger. Brilliant 29-year-old Sophie Diehl is an up-and-coming criminal defense lawyer in the prestigious firm of Traynor, Hand, Wyzanski in the fictional New England state of Narraganset. Mia Durkheim, nee Meiklejohn, the daughter of one of Traynor, Hand, Wyzanski's wealthiest clients, has been served divorce papers by her husband of 18 years, pediatric oncologist Daniel. After Sophie fills in for the firm's vacationing divorce specialist, Fiona McGregor, to take Mia's initial interview--transcript provided--Mia decides she wants Sophia to represent her. Sophie reluctantly accepts the civil case under pressure from managing partner David Greaves. The intimacies of Mia and Daniel's marriage are laid bare largely through Mia and Sophie's emails and Sophie's detailed memos to David about the case's progress. The couple's skirmishes are comically vicious, while the issue of custody concerning their sensitive, precocious 10-year-old daughter deepens the marital drama. As Sophie gears up to battle the sleazy New York lawyer Daniel has hired, she also must contend with Fiona's ruffled feathers and office politics involving ethnic, class and gender issues brought to light in a flurry of interoffice memos--shades of The Good Wife. Meanwhile, Sophie's emails to her best friend chronicle a nonstarter romance and her complicated relationships with high-achieving, eccentric parents whose divorce still troubles Sophie. Rieger pulls out every legal document connected to the case, including witness affidavits, settlement offer breakdowns and legal invoices. Extremely clever, especially the legal infighting; this book should prove hugely popular with the legal set as well as anyone who has ever witnessed a divorce in process.

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The Divorce Papers: A Novel 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Horrible read and so much material that had to be skipped over becuase of no relevance to the story. This book cost 12.99, I feel like I should have been the one paid to read this sorry book.
L875 More than 1 year ago
I started with four stars but I am finding that I got five stars worth of enjoyment out of this book. I really did. I was put off at first by the style. I wasn't that interested in reading actual divorce papers and proceedings. But then the voyeur in me got the best of me. In the end, I couldn't put it down. Somehow in all those memos and e-mails and proceedings you see glimpses of the heartbreaking details of what brings people together and what tears them apart. It was interesting and entertaining and I enjoyed every minute of it. I loved Sophie, the lawyer, with her inability to edit herself and her complicated family. Who can make a lawyer lovable? Well, it worked here. Also, I will use that sending flowers thing this very week. And I never would have considered it without this book. (That's when I decided it's five stars instead of four. I used her idea in my own way. It has to be five stars.)
millstreetreader More than 1 year ago
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.
lindianajones More than 1 year ago
As an avid reader, I do enjoy being surprised. Sometimes the time worn formula of Chapter after Chapter can be a bit dull. If you are like me and like to shake things up a bit on occasion, this novel is for you. Actually calling it a novel is a bit of a stretch. As the title states, the book is comprised of assorted papers dealing with a divorce. There is no narrator carefully leading you along. No, you read legal documents, emails, faxes, letters, memos and even florist cards that tell the story of a new-ish lawyer handling her first divorce case ever. Can you write characters in a three dimensional way in this format? Well Susan Rieger can. Admittedly this format is not for everyone but I love it. It kept you interested and involved. And it was difficult to stop reading as the formulaic Chapter breaks were not involved. But I did not mind. I am an avid reader after all. I really enjoyed this book and give it 5 out of 5 stars. DISCLAIMER:  I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
ReadsalotGA More than 1 year ago
Delicious!  I am so sad I finished last night.  Please say there will be a sequel, a series or just anything.  I loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you like reading someone elses email you might like it but I found it boring
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An entertaining, easy read that tries a little too hard to be what it's not. Highly recommended for beach or vacation reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found the writing style peculiar, but it worked. I enjoyed the read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ABookishGirlBlog More than 1 year ago
Of course the one thing that really stood out in this book was how Rieger laid out her prose in the book in the form of memos, emails, legal documents and such, every word is in some type of form for communication. So not being laid out like a regular book ups this book in my opinion I think the way that Rieger decided to present this story is nothing short of genius! I am actually in the middle of a divorce so I found some of the things in this book frightening and others humorous but overall it was an entertaining, solid read. Life changing, no, but it definitely put certain things into perspective for this reader! If you love a good entertaining chick-lit read than you need look no farther than The Divorce Papers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutley fantastic read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wasnt sure if I'd like the style but I did. Great characters. Learned a lot about attorneys and divorces. Some things I did not want to know... oh well. I look forward to the author's next novel!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
collegestudentforlife More than 1 year ago
While I think the idea of this book is fun and relatively unique, there are some problems. Namely Sophie. Sophie is a totally unlikeable, whinny woman that I would not want to be my friend, let alone my lawyer. She sends completely inappropriate emails and memos of a personal nature (spilling her guts about her parents' divorce more than a decade before) to her boss -- emails that are rather flirtatious, especially when you learn that she has a crush on DG (as she calls him). What's worse is that her boss doesn't seem to want to stop her from sending these emails. At one point, he tells her that a memo she wrote is unprofessional, but his criticism is related to not its contents but its structure -- she rambles, he says, and that is true for the bulk of Sophie's correspondence. It rambles and doesn't seem to have a point -- and when she finally gets there, you're exhausted from waiting for her to wrap it up already. Which leads me to my next criticism. I could not stand reading the emails between Sophie and her life-long friend Maggie. Although Maggie was the only one who told Sophie to grow up and grow a pair, I just could not read those emails without my eyes drifting. Granted, this is a novel set in 1999, where email was a novelty and not many people had cell phones, and texting definitely wasn't a form of communication. But oh my gosh. NO ONE WRITES EMAILS LIKE THAT. My biggest problem with the length of the emails -- and many other documents in this book, court documents withstanding -- is that they were trying too hard to be literary. They weren't written in everyday nomenclature. If I am going to read an epistolary novel, I expect it to be realistic, not full of prose that is being forced through a "literary" sieve. This is a book that tries to rely too much on popular culture, with references to books, movies, and theatre that the majority of readers aren't going to get. I am a smart, well-read, educated woman and I have to say, reading these references and trying to figure out them when I didn't know was distracting very irritating. Sometimes inserting these references, even if the audience doesn't get them, can work. I give you Gilmore Girls as an outstanding example of this. However, in the case of Gilmore Girls, you have two women just being themselves, their likeable selves. In The Divorce Papers, all we have is Sophie making repeated references to her French mother, her English father, her bad boyfriends, with all of these book and movie references that aim at making Sophie appear cultured but fail terribly in hitting their mark. One thing that I found super irritating, and I don't know why, is that it appears that this novel takes place in the made up state of Narragansett. Narragansett is a real city in Rhode Island, but here it's its own state. I take it back, I think I know why it bothers me so much. The author went through law school and has taught law at two different colleges. Would it have been so difficult to do research into actual divorce laws of an actual state? I feel like making up a state and its own divorce laws is both a) a lot more work than researching real divorce laws in real states and b) lazy writing because she was too lazy to do (a). Other states are mentioned frequently: New York. New Jersey. Massachusetts. Why not use one of those? My overall impression? I am channeling my inner Sophie when I say that this is a novel that tries way, way too hard to be avant-garde and fails miserably.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't waste your time or your money. Boring. No plot. No purpose. There's nothing flawed in the writing style, but nothing enlightening about it. There was some character development, but not enough to justify this book's existence. If you want to follow the proceedings of a divorce, go look up divorce records in your local court. The only reason I finished the book was that I figured the whole drab beginning must be leading up to something interesting, maybe some clever twist, but no, it just ended. Total disappointment.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very clever. Good read. Different. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are a lawyer or work in the legal field, don't waste your money on this one. You will find it so absurd and unrealistic you will not be able to enjoy it. Lawyers would never waste their time writing the long, elaborate memos and e-mails that are the entire premise of this book. Also, you will not find the numerous pleadings and laws intriguing-you will just be thinking, get to the plot already. Wish I could have a refund.
Literary_Marie More than 1 year ago
Sophie Diehl is a 29-year-old criminal law attorney that is used to clients behind bars. With all the big partners out of town, Sophie is assigned to handle the intake interview for divorcee Mia Meiklejohn Durkheim, Mayflower descendant and daughter of the firm's most important client. Sophie warns the wife of 18 years that she's never handled a divorce before but Mia believes Sophie is the perfect lawyer to fight on her behalf. Hey, it's a first divorce for both women. Why not experience it together? The Divorce Papers is Susan Rieger's debut novel. I like that she didn't choose a traditional method to tell the story of a messy high-profile divorce handled by a cynical lawyer. It was much easier to follow through correspondence (personal emails, office memos, handwritten notes and legal documents). Great way to offer a direct window into the characters' lives. I read numerous reviews of how funny The Divorce Papers is. Even the front matter calls it "sometimes hilarious." Clearly I am missing something because I had zero LOL moments. I barely chuckled. To each its own comedy. Nevertheless, at just under 500 pages, it was an easy entertaining read. Literary Marie of Precision Reviews
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I only had to read the sample to realize that thus book is a huge waste of time and money. It is an awful and boring book.Do not buy!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great easy read. Would make a great beach read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awful.....could of been good if it didnt consist of only emails etc....wheres the story?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't believe anyone thought this book was worthy of publication. the premise was completely implausible and too much irrelevant material made this a boring, worthless read. Save your money.