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The Divorcees

by Rowan Beaird

The Divorcees by Rowan Beaird X
The Divorcees by Rowan Beaird
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  • Published Mar 2024
    272 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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  • Ann B. (Kernville, CA)
    Character-driven historical fiction with a twist you see coming yet you applaud anyway
    Set on a 1950's divorce ranch, this excellent debut novel taps into the fascinating, not-often-explored history of Reno, Nevada's quickie divorce industry. Lois Saunders, née Gorski, loves her alone time, her free time, especially when it comes to movies and movie ephemera. She has a talent for bringing out a woman's best features with makeup, but she's not great with other women in general, or at least the socially-reined-in women she's been around all her life. She doesn't 'get' them; they don't 'get' her. So when she meets fellow divorcée Greer, an odd but charismatic and glamorous woman who seems to see Lois, she's drawn into Greer's orbit. Will Lois be able to shrug off her past, the social constraints and men -- her father and soon-to-be-ex-husband -- who have prescribed her life thus far? Will Greer be there for her instead? I was enthralled with the characters, the historical details, and the vibrant writing of this novel, but I especially appreciated the literal ending of the book, which uses a classic and powerful storytelling technique that signals a pivot. Brava, Rowan Beaird. I can't imagine this book won't be a movie itself someday soon.
  • Sylvia T. (Rancho Mirage, CA)
    Get Started Already on Your Next Novel
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading Beaird's novel, the Divorcees. I liked this author's writing style especially since I had no prior knowledge of Reno's famous 'divorce ranches'. So, I was intrigued from the start. Add in interesting characters, especially Greer Lang and this book becomes very hard to put down. It was definitely a page turner for me! I'm looking forward to reading Rowan's next book.
  • Linda A. (Encino, CA)
    Did What Went on in Reno Stay in Reno?
    THE DIVORCÉES, a novel by Rowan Beaird, invites us into the peculiar world of an up-scale "divorce ranch" in 1950s Reno, Nevada where women come to establish a six-week residency before filing for a quick and easy divorce. Lois Saunders arrives by train from Lake Forest Illinois to stay at the Golden Yarrow, one of the posher divorce ranches in this self-described "divorce capital of the world." Lois, 25, naïve and dependent on her father to pay for her stay, joins four other women, each from elsewhere, each seeking to escape a troubled marriage.

    Along with a divorce lawyer, the ranch provides each guest with activities like swimming and horseback riding, introducing them to the surrounding desert landscape and raucous cowboy culture, which are artfully drawn by the author. Lois fights feelings of inferiority, a fear of not fitting in. From inside her head, we sense her discomfort, believing she's "not one of them." "Worry worms through her" when she learns that her soon-to-be ex-husband and her controlling father have been meeting to parse out her future. Through the experiences of Lois and the other women, we witness some of the legal and cultural inequities many married women endured in the 50s.

    When an enigmatic new arrival shows up the tables tilt. Greer, free thinking and magnetic, encourages Lois and the others to indulge in the freewheeling world of gambling and excessive drinking. Vivid tableaux of the wannabe glamorous Harrah's casino are replete with divorcées and disreputable men on the prowl. Nightly, liquor flows like raging rapids and women never say no to another drink. Greer wields mysterious sway over them all, but she homes in on Lois, sensing she needs a push toward independence. Greer teaches her protégée to regard male casino patrons as convenient marks, good for a quick tryst, free drinks and pilfered poker chips.

    Beaird challenges the reader to guess what Greer is up to. Why has she revealed so little about herself? Why does she befriend Lois, teaching her aggressive moves like how to spit in a man's face after knocking his drink from the bar?

    A plan hatched near the climax of the novel is telegraphed in the prologue, but the reader must plow to the end to find out the "what, why and where" of Greer's scheme. Overall, The Divorcées is a romp loaded with fascinating details evoking a time and place you can verify with a simple google search. Great for a vacation read!
  • Mary H. (Phoenix, AZ)
    Belief in a Future
    The reader is in for a delightful treat with this debut novel Divorcee's by Rowan Beaird. Although this novel was an easy read, it was filled with the complexities of choices. Set in the 1950's where life for women was mostly dictated to them by men, a divorce could be granted with enough money and means to arrange the legal work. Located in Reno Nevada lies an established ranch for women, (a haven run by a woman), to reside for six weeks in order to be granted an uncontested, legally binding quick divorce.

    Here we meet Lois, a rather lonely, naïve young woman who craves friendship and whose imagination is fluid with dreams of a happy future. Always with a deep desire to fit in, Lois is introduced to Greer, who is thought to be wealthy, independent and somewhat reckless in her behavior. They form a bond based on future adventures, trust and a new acceptance. Lois believes in all the plans that she and Greer have made together and what the future will bring.

    In general, people weigh out their options in making a decision. Those decisions are often based on what is known and a bit of the unknown. This novel shows clarity of intentions based on personal knowledge but not always shared with one another.
  • Gwen C. (Clearfield, PA)
    The Divorcees
    The Divorcees by Rowan Beaird is a splendid novel. I was expecting a cliched telling of various women and their problems (like an old, stereotyped B movie) and instead I got a pulsating, well written plot with two amazing characters: awkward literate and movie lover misfit Lois and entitled, mysterious Greer. Power struggles abound: men over women, women within their social circle, Greer over ranch owner Rita and fellow divorcees. I truly did not see the ending coming! I just may reread this before passing it on to my book club; it's that good!
  • Diane M. (Wilmington, NC)
    The Divorcees
    This book is fascinating. A group of very diverse come together at a "Divorce Ranch" in the early 1950s. They must spend six weeks in Reno, NV to obtain a divorce. These women, who have used to living with a husband are adjusting to living together as well as the house rules. The group, being women, are bitchy and catty and an "in" group develops. Then a new mysterious women comes and the dynamics change and life becomes dangerous.
  • Gail K. (Saratoga Springs, NY)
    A Splendid Debut
    Rowan Beaird's The Divorcées has it all: strong, authentic, though not always likable, female characters, a great setting, a compelling plot and a satisfying conclusion. The characters are varied and believable. Reno, Nevada, with its divorce ranches and rather seedy nightlife, is intriguing. The plot moves along smoothly. And the conclusion was what I'd hoped for, albeit a bit unexpected. I would recommend this novel to readers who enjoy women's fiction and to those who liked Julia Claiborne Johnson's Better Luck Next Time.

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