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March 20, 2024

The Divorcées by Rowan Beaird ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

A novel set at a 1950s Reno "divorce ranch," about the complex friendship between two women who dare to imagine a different future.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of historical fiction novel The Divorcees by Rowan Beaird
March 2024;Flatiron Books; 978-1250896582
audio, ebook, print (272 pages); historical fiction

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 never felt like she fit in with anyone.  Her parents didn't nurture or love her and right after her mother died, she got married - hoping to find happiness but instead finding a husband who also wanted to control her life. When she decided to divorce him, her father paid for her to go to a ranch in Nevada with the demand that she would return home right after but be married again and out of his house in 6 months.  June has absolutely no self-confidence and follows her father's rules when she gets to the ranch.  Her only real personal decision in her life was to divorce her husband and she can't really explain why.  She doesn't make friends at the ranch until Greer shows up.  Greer befriends her and gets her to go out to the casinos and bars, gives her someone to talk to about her life, and makes her feel important for the first time in her life.  Greer takes over the whole group and has them committing petty theft and acting out based on her whims.  Is she who she says she is and is she Lois's friend or just using her?   Will Lois gain self-confidence from her relationship with Greer or go back to being the obedient daughter in her father's house?

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.

Buy The Divorcées at Amazon

Susan Roberts grew up in Michigan but loves the laid-back life at her home in the Piedmont area of North Carolina where she is two hours from the beach to the east and the mountains in the west.  She reads almost anything but her favorite genres are Southern Fiction and Historical Fiction.   

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