Laura Dave’s The Divorce Party is a tale of two women, Gwyn and Maggie, who are at opposite ends of the romantic spectrum. Gwyn, whose soon-to-be ex-husband claims to have found religion and needs to move on, is having a divorce party, in essence publicly trying to salvage some dignity while recognizing the end of 35 years of marriage. (Apparently, divorce parties are a growing trend, but this is the first novel to focus on the subject). On the other hand, there's newly engaged Maggie, Gwyn’s future daughter-in-law. This divorce party will be Maggie’s first introduction to her fiance, Nate’s, family (what a way to meet the future in-laws!).
Dave, the author of the thought-provoking London is the Best City in America, has also contributed to The New York Times, Glamour, Self, Redbook, ESPN the Magazine, and The New York Observer. She takes a unique approach with The Divorce Party, which takes place in one day, with each female lead narrating an alternate chapter. While this could be a confusing format, it works and even goes so far as to provide a balanced weight to the story that favors neither woman’s relationship. Dave also pens some surprising plot twists that layer the story and offer more depth than the usual love/marriage chick lit novel (I hate to even call The Divorce Party chick lit, because it's much deeper than the average breezy read. In fact, this novel is deep, touching and sad, but as it manages to offer a hopeful ending, that might qualify it as chick lit).
Instead, I found myself drawn to both relatable women and their individual issues. Sure, both women are flawed in that they get jealous, angry, and dramatic, but that just makes them all the more accessible and appealing. While on the surface Gwyn’s troubles seem heavier, as the story progresses, the reader discovers that Maggie’s dealing with doubts and ghosts of her own. In short, young or old, relationships are fraught with hardship and often take lots of work.
The Divorce Party features two women poised to learn things about the men in their lives that they were not prepared for, which goes to show that even after 35 years of marriage, there’s still room for some surprises, and not all of them good. (Readers groups would be well served with The Divorce Party, as it includes a reader’s guide that practically begs to be discussed.)