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The Divorcees

by Rowan Beaird

The Divorcees by Rowan Beaird X
The Divorcees by Rowan Beaird
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Gina V. (Mesa, AZ)

Regret, Self-discovery, and starting over.
During a time when divorces were only granted upon proof of adultery (and then only after a one year wait), Nevada offered divorces based on 9 different grounds and no waiting period. All that was required was a 6-week residency in Nevada. Divorce ranches were established to give people seeking a divorce (mainly women) a place to stay during the 6-week residency period. The housing manager at the ranch had to confirm that the guest had not left the state for more than 24 hours during the 6 weeks.

Lois Saunders, a 20-something woman from the Midwest wants to leave her marriage to her cold, controlling husband who wants children while she doesn't. Lois's father sends her to a "respectable" divorce ranch - The Golden Yarrow - in Reno, Nevada with the understanding that, after the divorce, she returns to his home for 6 months maximum then finds someone else to marry.

When Lois arrives at The Golden Yarrow, she seems lost and confused as to who she is and what she really wants, although she does know she doesn't want to be married again. There are 7 other girls, who come and go, at the ranch and Lois doesn't fit in with them, as much as she would like to. When the mysterious Greer Lang arrives, things start to change. The girls become obsessed with the enigmatic Greer and try to emulate her brash, impudent ways much to proprietress, Rita's (& colleague, Bailey's) consternation. Greer and Lois form a strange connection, which alienates Lois further from the other girls. The author only skims the surface of the other girls (concentrating mainly on Lois and Greer) - just giving the reader a glimpse into their personalities and reasons for being at the ranch.

Neither Lois or Greer are particularly likable. Lois comes off as desperate and gullible and Greer seems selfish, mean, and a little psycho. As unconventional as her methods were, Greer does help Lois and the other girls to be able to see a world where they call their own shots, as opposed to everyone else calling the shots for them. I think Greer gave Lois the strength to manage life on her own after the divorce. After Lois asked Rita what golden yarrow was in the last chapter, I looked it up. Drugs.com says "yarrow has been used therapeutically as a strengthening, bitter tonic." To me, this was symbolic of the girls' experience at the ranch and with Greer.

I didn't love the book, but I didn't hate it. I found the concept of divorce ranches interesting and it gave me insight into the societal conventions surrounding that time. The Divorcees is definitely character-driven and a slow burn (lots of introspection from Lois), but could make for an interesting book club discussion.

Friendship and Fitting In
I did not realize there were such things as Divorce Camps in the 50's - how things have changed. The author wrote in such detail about the relationships among the girls and the need to get along and how some individuals can influence and have such a hold on others. The author was able to create personality differences among the characters in such a way that there might have been a character one could relate to. Time was a factor as they only had a number of weeks to live at the ranch and you could feel the drama unfold. The book would be a good choice for book group members to see how behavior and personalities governed behavior.
Lucy S. (Westford, MA)

How Personality Governs Fitting In
I did not realize there were such things as Divorce Camps in the 50's - how things have changed. The author wrote in such detail about the relationships among the girls with their individual personalities and their need to get along. The author described how some individuals can influence and have such a strong hold on others. The author was able to create personality differences among the characters in such a way that there might have been a character one could relate to. Time was a factor as they only had a number of weeks to live at the ranch and you could feel the drama unfold. I think the book would be a good choice for book group members to see how events, effects from the past, and personalities govern behavior.
Dawn G. (Lake in the Hills, IL)

Great Read!
Thanks to Book Browse for sending me this book! I really enjoyed it! Having never heard of the divorce ranches of the 1950's, it was an interesting read! I also liked how the book centered on women's friendships, and the ability to forge their own way when needed. I think this would be a great book for book clubs. A lot of good conversations could stem from it. I will definitely be suggesting it to my book club!
Patricia H. (Santa Clarita, CA)

Who do you trust?
The story is about a group of women with a similar goal and it was interesting to see how the author provided different solutions/options to each.

There were scary moments, funny moments, and sad moments. I liked Anna, Bailey, Rita and her kids. Some of the ladies not so much but then that is good writing when you can make someone dislike a fictional character just because of how she or he acts and it's believable.

It wasn't until page 33 that I felt like I wanted to read the rest of the book and then I was hooked and finished it in one day. I think it's because the print seemed small and in those first pages there are lot of people with only names and very little detail so it's hard to keep track of who is who, but that does come later as we get to know everyone and start to get drawn in to their lives.
Power Reviewer
Susan R. (Greensboro, NC)

Divorce in the 1950s
In the early 1950s, there was only one way for a woman to get a divorce if she had the money. She would stay at a ranch in Nevada for 6 weeks to establish residency and then go before a judge and tell him that she intended to stay there - even though most of them didn't stay. This book is a look at one of those ranches and the group of women who are staying there.

Lois is a rather pathetic character and I had to keep reminding myself that it was the 1950s and women had fewer choices in their lives but really - even in that time period she could have stood up for herself and quit trying to make people like her by telling lies about her life. The author gave a lot of insight on Lois and I think the reason that I didn't really like her had more to do with her reflection of the time period she lived in. I wish we'd have learned more about the other women who were at the ranch with Lois other than the fact that they all drank and partied too much. I thought that the middle of the book was rather slow but once Greer arrived and June became more 'alive', the story picked up.

Overall, I enjoyed this look at women's lives during this time period. This was a debut novel for this author and I look forward to future books from her.
Elizabeth V. (Bellbrook, OH)

Midcentury Modern Divorce
The Divorcees is a fictionalized account about the "divorce ranches" in midcentury Reno, Nevada. It is well written and the story is engaging. My only criticism is the lack of depth in the women's stories. The difficulties women faced in trying to asset their independence in a male dominated culture at a time when they couldn't even get a credit card in their own name, is mentioned but not fleshed out as fully as I would have liked. I would have liked to have had more in depth in exploring the circumstances that lead the various women to the ranch and how they dealt with the aftermath. More focus on Lois and the other women and less on Greer would have made for a better book.
Cynthia V. (New York, NY)

Divorce Ranches...Who Knew?
I had never heard of Reno divorce ranches in the 1950s. The most compelling part of this novel for me was simply learning about them and the reasons they existed. The shame and stigma of divorce at that time...what courage it took to even go down the divorce path! As a novel I found it very readable and quite a page-turner...well written with intriguing story lines. I didn't relate to any of the characters, but that is not a necessity. The many characters had quite the character flaws and varying insecurities to keep the story moving. Was it an exceptional work? I didn't think so, but quite solid. I look forward to reading more from this author.

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