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The Divorcees

by Rowan Beaird

The Divorcees by Rowan Beaird X
The Divorcees by Rowan Beaird
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BookWormBecky

Loneliness, quickie divorce, independence…
4.2

Thank you to Book Browse and Flatiron books for this unique read!

Loneliness, quickie divorce, independence…

Lois is one of several women staying at the Golden Yarrow Ranch, a divorce ranch in Reno, Nevada. All of the women are wannabe divorcees, living at the ranch for six weeks, in order to meet Reno's 1951 residency requirements for obtaining a divorce.

The women have diverse backgrounds and varying reasons for wanting a divorce. Mysterious Greer appears in the middle of the night, and proceeds to change everything. She influences the others in both good and bad ways, but definitely "toppling the scales" of the ranch format. They will all "enter a world Greer has willed into existence ."

Not all is as it seems…


Available March 28, 2024

Thoughts / comments:
A good debut set in the 1950s razzle dazzle of Reno. A unique storyline of female friendships, secrets, starting over, self-discovery, and consequences. I would read future books by this author.

Descriptive writing of desert scenes and casinos! I could behold the sights and sounds!

Liked the cover!

Somewhat abrupt ending - not what I expected.
Power Reviewer
Beth B. (New Wilmington, PA)

Home on the Range
The Divorcees is a most unusual novel. Into a ranch-sized mixing bowl, combine a cast of characters, all flawed except the cook and housekeeper. Stir in alcohol (plentiful), casinos, and local bar characters. Main ingredients are Lois, so insecure it hurts and Greer, self-centered and coldly calculating. There's a hefty amount of "things are not always as they seem." Lois, with no backbone, constantly examines herself under a self-imposed microscope and Greer, who has no fear of consequences, is blatantly immoral. Essential ingredients are references to movies vs. reality. After baking this concoction in the hot Nevada sun, prepare to ponder the icing -- will Lois adjust the ingredients and try a new recipe for her life? Author, Rowan Beaird, is one to watch.
Victoria S. (New Bern, NC)

Good Writing, Bland Story, Empty Characters
Well written and the subject matter is what drew me to the story, but the characterization lacked substance and ultimately failed. I might have found this a more compelling read if the author had provided more than the one-dimensional outlines of the other women, especially Rita and Bailey, whom I found far more interesting than that of the milk toast, main character in whose head we spend the majority of the story.

While she may represent women of the time who didn't have agency over their lives, she felt aimless and empty, much like the story. When she falls prey to a mysterious woman whose attention she desperately craves, I felt the story would finally take off. This was the only reason I continued to read, but instead the story just ebbed along providing a monotonous recounting of endless days by the pool, culminating in gin-soaked nights at the casino. There was no climax to the story, only a fizzling out. This was not a book I was ever keen to return to and ended up disappointed at the lost opportunity for a really good story.
Molly B. (Longmont, CO)

Hoped for more
It's an interesting part of history – when women had to establish residency in Nevada in order to obtain divorces, and boarding ranches sprung up to meet this need. I had hoped for more than what this book offered – more history, more character development, more upstart women whose stories hadn't been told until now. There were some good moments: "she thinks of how all it takes to get something is to not want it so badly"; and the image of a lawyer's fingers "brushing up and down his tie". But overshadowing these were some strange analogies that seemed contrived. The first time the protagonist and her fiancé had sex, "he emerged from it like a captain swept ashore after a shipwreck, tousled and slack-jawed, convinced he'd done something very wrong". And imagining herself drowned, she saw "her skin the color of a boy's nursery". The story finally got interesting when the main character went off on her own, but by then it was the end of the book, too late.
Sandy F. (Davis, CA)

Took too long to catch my interest; chapter 50 unnecessary
The first 70 pages the characters were stilted and I could not get interested in the story. It is only when Greer arrives that the characters come alive and there is hints of mystery about each of them. Then this book became interesting and I wanted to know more. The awful feel of being a woman divorcee with no rights in the early 1950's was captured well.
Marion T. (Palatine, IL)

The Divorcees
I grew up hearing about the "Divorce Ranches" in Reno but knew very little about them except you could get a no-fault divorce there if you resided there for 6 weeks to be considered a resident. After reading this book I know really nothing more. This story could have been placed almost anywhere during the 50's. However, Rowan Beaird's writing for a first novel was well written, but the development of characters left me unsatisfied. There was so much more she could have written about filling up the space going over and over again the casinos, drinking, pool, a little of the horseback riding but nothing about the landscape and the heat. Sorry, but I found this little more than a good beach read.
Janet Gardner

An Interesting Subject
I have just finished "the Divorcees" and I am smiling about the subject matter, which seemed to be so frowned upon in the 50's. We have arrived at a whole different era in 2023, with divorce being very common and not something to hide. I admire the author for her research of the "divorce ranches" in Nevada and the need for them.

The book was overall quite entertaining. However, I thought there were too many characters to keep straight. Of the women living at the ranch only Mary Elizabeth stuck with me and that was because she and Lois met on the train. Of course, there was Greer but she wasn't just a minor player.

The first chapter made me consider not reading the book. That was because of an abundance of "cute" and "different" descriptions. Sometimes I can almost picture an author searching for a clever way to just say something like the casino was dirty. Instead I read "she began to see how the frenetic, repeating pattern could camouflage all manner of refuse". Or, looking at her clothes I read, "she stares at the slack shapes of her shirts and dresses spaced out wide as the teeth of a comb."

Thanks for the opportunity to read the book and also send my review. This isn't my favorite book but I didn't hate it and I wish the author success. Wish I could do as well.
Barbara C. (Riverside, CA)

Changing Your Future in just six weeks!
The women in this book mostly wanted a change. Except Greer. I would have liked more detail on Mary Elizabeth. After her husband showed up, she was more interesting. Unwrapping Lois and making her into a living character showed her as a woman who had never controlled her own life. Lois made good decisions at the end. I see her with a reasonable future. The middle of the book was very slow, too much Reno and casino life.

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