THE DIVORCE PAPERS
By Susan Rieger. (Crown, 461 pages, $25.)
Susan Rieger’s debut novel tells a story of fictitious legal filings and associated professional and personal correspondence of people involved in the dissolution of a single marriage.
Gimmicks often don’t pass for literature. This one does. Rieger writes with such facility and humor in so many voices — neurotic lawyer, betrayed wife, self-centered doctor, heartbroken child — that she creates fully formed characters and a plausible narrative.
The tale of Mia Meiklejohn’s breakup with her cheating physician husband, Daniel Durkheim, could have easily spawned a yawn or at least an indifferent shrug. Instead, through a series of wonderfully literate legal memorandums, letters and e-mails, Rieger makes the reader confront the ugliness of divorce that transcends trust funds.
Rieger, the wife of New Yorker critic David Denby, has spun an excellent yarn about the nature of love, insecurity and commitment.
JIM SPENCER, staff writer
By Faye Berger. (North Star Press, 149 pages, $14.95.)
Wartime reminiscences come in degrees, from veterans quick with a story to those who’ve never breathed a word. Russel Albrecht’s memories fall in line with many of his fellows’ in that he invariably recounted his experiences on the front lines of World War II with enough detail to make the drama clear, yet never so much that it sounded heroic. Like this: When his captain was killed 10 feet away, he saw the likely sniper in a church tower. “That’s the first aimed shot that I took in the service,” he said. “I shot a lot of times from the hip where you see a bush or something and you blast that, but I never had an aimed one until then.” The sniper was silenced. “I just figured someone else shot at the same time I did. Anyway, he didn’t bother us, and I went on.”
That we have this story is due to daughter, Faye Berger, collecting his thoughts in 1992 as they revisited his infantry route in Europe on the trip of a lifetime. “Better put, it was a trip of a past life,” writes Berger, a retired paralegal from Golden Valley. She bolsters her widowed father’s accounts with her own travelogue about seeking landmarks a half-century later, of struggling with languages, of wondering if this was a wise pursuit.
There are no grand conclusions, which makes this book all the more accessible, credible and, ultimately, quite moving. Faye Berger will be at the Golden Valley Library, Brookview Center, at 10 a.m. Wed.
Kim Ode, staff writer