The Divorce Party by Laura Dave is a perfect book to buy in an airport for a 3-day business trip. Read it on the plane, in your hotel room or in the lobby, and on the return flight and you should be able to finish it. It’s a 272-page novella – a smaller than usual trade paperback – that feels much shorter than that.
This story does not need a lot of space as it all takes place in 24 hours or so. Gwyn Huntington is planning on publicly celebrating her divorce from her husband Thomas with 200 friends and family members. She does not actually want the divorce but Thomas – not Tom – is having an affair with the woman Gwyn has hired to cater the event. Strange. Strange also is the fact that Gwyn knows about her husband’s infidelity, but acts like she doesn’t. Further, she plans to end the “divorce party” by serving Thomas his favorite type of cake – an ironic variation on what would occur in a traditional wedding celebration.
And the strangeness doesn’t end here. The co-plot involves their son Champ Nathaniel (Nate) Huntington who is engaged to Maggie McKenzie. Nate and Maggie plan to marry and run a restaurant together with Nate serving as chef. On the day of the divorce party, Maggie learns from Nate’s sister that her new life and business partner is worth $500 million (he’s a half-billionaire). This is supposed to make Maggie upset, but really now… In this economy, how many people would want to call off a marriage because their soon-to-be spouse has too much money?
This was just one of the aspects of the plot that did not make sense to me. Maggie learns something else that’s meant to be shocking about Nate, but we’ll leave that up to the reader to discover. Let’s just say that to this reader the characters were more irritating and odd – and non-communicative – than charming.
Does this sound a bit like a plot for an afternoon TV movie? It did to me. Not quite believable and at its conclusion not much has really happened or been resolved (“Nothing was revealed…” in Dylan’s words). It’s more than a shame…I had read so many positive comments about author Laura Dave that I expected something weighty, dramatic, moving… life-affirming. To the contrary, this short work seemed light, slight and mostly forgettable. Like some of those family movies made for TV, it’s not that bad – yet something not to regret if you’ve missed it.
Disappointing. As one of Dave’s characters states in this story, “We don’t know anything about what is coming up next.” True and sometimes we expect more than is delivered.