The Divorce Party: A novel about forgiveness, farewells, and toasting new beginnings

I got the book The Divorce Party in the mail, a gift from a friend to help me celebrate my own divorce party. I'd heard of divorce-abrations before I threw mine, but I'd never been to one. And I'd read many books about divorce, but never a novel that I could personally connect to or characters I cared about very much. There just wasn't much out there, and so I pulled out my tiara and made my own way -- and invitations.

I'd been caught in the limbo of "getting divorced" for a year-and-a-half. In that time, I'd moved twice, changed jobs, begun dating, lost weight, started doing yoga, and changed my hair at least three times. All of that was going on at the same time my whole identity was shifting -- from wife to ex-wife, from married to single, from co-parent to single mother.

I was also in and out of court, enmeshed in horrible arguments and text wars, negotiating the most trivial things to be placed in a legal file to determine the guidelines of my finances, parenting, insurance, schedules. It was a lot. And so when the judge stamped and signed the papers declaring my marriage legally dissolved, I felt the overwhelming urge to honor all that was unwritten in the documents.

I wanted to celebrate making it to the other side and I wanted to toast my family and closest friends with thanks for walking beside me through it all. I wanted to enjoy being happier and healthier, even if I arrived at that unexpected place after much heartache and many tears. I wanted to laugh and relax and be surrounded by women who have known me through many different identities and across several decades.

One of my friends couldn't make it, and so she sent me a copy of The Divorce Party, written and signed by a friend of hers. The sentiment was sweet, and looking at the cover, I admit I worried that it would be one more chick lit book that would somehow trivialize the whole concept of a feting the end of a significant relationship. I prayed it wouldn't involve a magazine writer main character who is just schlumpy enough, is wronged by her more attractive husband, gets divorced, and has a party to celebrate where she meets a dreamboat of a man who happens to see her inner beauty wrapped in all its adorable quirks.

It didn't. The Divorce Party is far from a quickie, beach read. It is a beautifully written novel that raises questions, not only about how we choose to leave relationships, but what choices we make we enter into commitments with another person. Told from the perspectives of two women -- Gwyn, who is divorcing her longtime husband, and Maggie, Gwyn's future daughter-in-law. Gwyn is poised and reserved and intuitive, while Maggie is funny and frantic and vulnerable. The women stand in two different generations, one on the way out of a marriage and one on the way in. Still, their fears about the future, how and if to trust themselves as well as the man beside them, and how to negotiate their places in this complicated and changing family, all overlap fluidly.

Author Laura Dave incorporates the history of Montauk carefully into the storyline, so that the details of how the winds literally shift in that part of New York reveal more about how this family has evolved from one generation to the next. There is a lot of rich description of the town, the house where Gwyn and her husband raised their children and now will celebrate their divorce, of the weather. But because none of that is heavy-handed it is easy to imagine each character making their way through the landscape where all of these beginnings and endings are taking place.

After I read The Divorce Party, I had a chance to interview Laura Dave. It was a lovely coincidence considering we had mutual friends and I'd just read the book on my own. As soon as I heard her speak, I was embarrassed that I was once worried The Divorce Party would be another predictable, template of a story. We talked about the characters, about why people leave and how others pick themselves up after they've been left. We talked about forgiveness and finding your joy in life. We talked and talked and talked and I hated hanging up the phone.

Laura Dave herself was delightful. And after 40 minutes on the phone with her, I easily imagined her standing among my other women friends at my own divorce party. I thought she seemed very insightful and analytical and kind. I loved that she really wanted to get this one situation, this one divorce party at the center of her book, so right.

I think she did. At least, she did for me. Even more than I related to the circumstances of Gwyn's divorce and party, I got the bigger questions and emotions of it all. I also understood Maggie, and even felt compassion to the men who were not always on such good behavior in this book.

I want to spill much more about the story and talk and talk and talk with other women about what they thought of it all. But I will hold back (for now).

Without giving too much away, I will say this: You should read The Divorce Party. Whether you are single or married or divorced or partnered, you should read it. Whether you are wearing your tiara in celebration of a new union or as a sassy farewell to one, I think some part of this story and these characters will speak to you.

And if you can't find a place or person to relate to in The Divorce Party, enjoy the writing and pass it on. It also makes a great gift.

The Divorce Party is available here.

Visit Laura Dave's website here.

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