The Divorce Party: A Novel by Laura DaveThe Divorce Party: A Novel by Laura Dave

The Divorce Party: A Novel

byLaura Dave

Paperback | April 28, 2009

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"Sizzle Factor: SPF 50. A secret marriage, lies about affairs . . . even sex on the day of the divorce party" (USA Today)

The second novel from Laura Dave, the acclaimed author of Eight Hundred Grapes and Hello Sunshine. In The Divorce Party, she captures a much-discussed cultural phenomenon that has never been profiled in fiction before-divorce celebrations-with her characteristic wit and warmth. Set in Hamptons high society, The Divorce Party features two women-one newly engaged and one at the end of her marriage-trying to answer the same question: when should you fight to save a relationship, and when should you let go?

An insightful and funny multi-generational story, this deeply moving novel is sure to touch anyone whose heart has weathered an unexpected storm.
Laura Dave is the international bestselling author of Eight Hundred Grapes, The First Husband, The Divorce Party, and London is the Best City in America. Her novels have been published in fifteen countries and optioned as major motion pictures. Dave's writing has appeared in The New York Times, Glamour, Self, Redbook, and Cosmopolitan....
Title:The Divorce Party: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 7.71 × 5.05 × 0.72 inPublished:April 28, 2009Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:014311560X

ISBN - 13:9780143115601

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from More than just a chick lit read Summer's not done yet - here's another hot read for you! Nate and Maggie are newly engaged. Nate's parents Gwyn and Thomas have been married for thirty five years. But their marriage has come to an end. Gwyn is throwing a divorce party with Thomas "to celebrate a peaceful end to a valued union." And this is the day when Maggie will meet her future in-laws for the first time.... This novel is told in alternating chapters from Maggie and Gwyn's viewpoint, all happening in one day. Both women have discovered things they didn't know about their significant other - albeit at a different stages of their relationships - the beginning and the end. Dave has created charming, warm, wonderful characters that are believable. The female roles are the strongest. Gwyn is a self assured woman who is coming to grips with finding her own path after so many years as a couple. Maggie is an engaging young woman who is finding her footing as well. Supporting characters, notably Nate's sister Georgia, are also searching. I had a hard time with Thomas. Although he is being true to what he believes to be the best path for himself, I disliked his dishonesty - I found it weak. Nate too has his secrets, but his reasons to be had less to do with selfishness, than his love for Maggie. I was more sympathetic to his cause, but still not thrilled with his duplicity. When I picked up Laura Dave's second novel, I thought it would be a chick lit read based on the cover. I hesitate to label it as there was so much more to it. it was by turns funny, sad, poignant and hopeful. A fairy tale - no, but a definite page turner. You'll find yourself re reading some of the passages on relationships and thinking about your own. Fans of Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin would enjoy this book. (They both did as they've provided cover blurbs!) As as a neat aside, Jennifer Aniston's film company has bought the rights to The Divorce Party. This would be a good choice for a book club as well. There is an excellent reading group guide included in the book.
Date published: 2009-07-30

Read from the Book

Montauk, New York, 1938It is bizarre, of course, that this was the summer that everyone was trying to fly somewhere. Howard Hughes around the world in ninety- one hours, the luxurious Yankee Clipper boat off the water and into the air, Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan from New York to Los Angeles—he wound up in Ireland. It was also the summer after Superman first appeared in Action Comics and instant coffee got popular, and the last full summer before the worst war. But they’d talk about the flights first. They’d say, how odd, for everyone to have spent so much time staring up at the sky, and to still not see it coming: a hurricane so punishing that it would destroy America’s eastern seaboard, biting off the farthest tip of eastern Long Island, biting off a town called Montauk, and leaving it detached from the world, an island, alone, in the middle of the ocean.It was September, only the last vestiges of summer remaining,when the hurricane hit. No one on Long Island knew thata storm was coming that afternoon. That the army would haveto come in to resurrect the land that had once connectedMontauk to the rest of Long Island. That it would take twoweeks before the waters receded low enough at Napeague to letthrough emergency traffic. That Montauk residents would losealmost everything.In the end, there were only a few exceptions. Near MontaukPoint, there were seven houses tucked so tightly to the bluffsthat the wind and the rain and the water couldn’t pull themdown. Seven sister houses built by the same architecture firm in1879, lived in each summer since by the same seven Manhattanfamilies. Their steely gates and strong foundations completelyintact. Their fireplaces and oak doors and stained- glass windowsmarking them, homes like trophies, on top of the end ofthe world.The one at the farthest eastern tip was called HuntingtonHall—Hunt Hall by anyone who’d actually visited. It was theonly house of the seven still occupied that late in September.And occupying it was Champ Nathaniel Huntington.Champ was thirty- three years old, and far too handsome,and a little too tall, and the only son of Bradley Huntington, themost successful publishing mogul in North America.When the hurricane hit, Champ Huntington was having sex.Lights on. Curtains drawn. Angry, late- afternoon sex. Annawas bent over the side of the bed, Champ behind her, his handcupping her throat.They had been out here all summer having sex like this.They were trying to save their marriage. And they were trying todestroy it.Outside was all water and raging dark and storm. But in hisfaded consciousness, Champ didn’t notice. He knew it was raining.He heard it striking against the roof. He heard the wind.But this was Montauk. It was September. These sounds didn’tindicate that something brutal was happening.Other things were brutal. This first year of marriage. It waswrong. Anna’s dark hair in the sink. The meetings he didn’t reallyhave. He bent down farther, took her ear in his mouth.“Don’t,” she said. She was focused, close. “Stop.”When they were done, they lay, splayed, Anna on the bed,Champ on the floor beneath her. Her foot was on his shoulder.This was the only place they were touching. He almost reachedout, held her toes. But he knew it just made her mad when hedid anything tender. It made her think he’d change, or want totry for her.Then and only then did Champ sit up and look outside. Andmaybe it was that his head was still closed off, but what he sawout there looked like a train crashing into the window. It wasthe visual that made him hear the noise. The terrible whistling,high pitched and out of control. Hearing it, he’d later say, wasthe moment his life changed.He headed to the bedroom window, naked, and had to reachout, grip the long edge of the window frame to hold himself up.He couldn’t see the beach, or the ocean. He couldn’t see anythingat first.Anna came up behind him, wrapped in the bedsheet, andthey stood there watching the train- wind through the window.They watched so hard that they didn’t talk. Not about the speedof the wind or the trees breaking apart or what must have beenhappening in the town center. If they had been thinking, theymight have moved away from the window. They might have beenscared that it would splinter. But they stood there until thestorm stopped, and started, and stopped for good. And thegreenish yellow sky turned purple and then black and the sun(or was it the moon?) rose up, terrifying. It was the sun. Theyhad watched through the night. “What time is it?” she asked.He didn’t answer her.“What do we do now?” she said.Champ was already in motion. He was putting on clothesand lacing up his work boots and walking out the front door. Hemade his way, by foot, across his land, down the slippery bluffsand tree- wrecked cliffs onto the flooded Napeague stretch anddown farther to Main Street. Three and a half miles. Into thecenter of the ruined village.There were fishing boats and cars piled on small houses.Fallen phone lines pulling down torn roofs. Poles and floodedcabinets and bed frames lining the street. Water was fl owingfrom everywhere, making it hard to even walk down thestreets—where did it start? If they figured out where it startedmaybe they could stop it!Champ pulled up his pant legs and made his way to theManor, where people were setting up shelter, where they weretrying to provide relief for themselves. And Champ set to workwith the other men moving cars and carrying wet wood andboarding windows and drying blankets and cleaning up slabsof broken glass.How could he explain it even to himself? He didn’t recognizethe feeling, had never known it before. But something brokefree in Champ—something like devotion or commitment—tohis home, to his suffering town, to everything around him.Maybe this is why, when he finished working, he didn’t headhome, but down to the docks, where he sat on canisters with allthe fishermen, who now had nothing, and listened to them talkabout how they had nothing, and stared at his own cut hands,and watched the moon rise, white and fierce, remarkably sure ofitself.Then he followed the star- line north and east, trying to locateit. First Montauk Point, then the cliff and the bluffs, thenthe house itself. His house. Huntington Hall. Standing tall,oblivious.It was hard to find his way back there in the dark. So he followedthe defeated shoreline, and eventually made his way upthe wooden staircase, into the bluffs, toward his home, whereeverything was still mostly together. Where Anna was waitingwith lit candles and tomato sandwiches, dark blankets spreadout on the living room floor.When he walked in, she was by the front door. She waswearing a long, purple sweater. She had her hair in a bun. Shereached for him, and he buried into her neck, smelled her.“How was town?” she asked, her hand still on his chest. “Itried to pick up news on the radio, but there was no reception. Isthere a town left?”He didn’t answer her, but he was looking at her strangely.And he knew that she knew he was looking at her strangely. Itwas as simple as this: he could see her. For the first time in ayear, there was nowhere else he was trying to be.Which brought him to his own questions: Why did it takefear to move him? Why does it take chaos to make us understandexactly what we need to do?He wanted to ask her his questions, but he wasn’t sure shewould have good answers, and then he would change his mind,and he didn’t want to change his mind. He wanted to stay thissure.Later, only thirty hours since he had last been lying t here,they were lying on the floor together, facing each other. And inthat strange way that we make decisions, the important decisionsthat ultimately make us, Champ decided that they weregoing to stay in Montauk full time. No more New York City.This had become their home.He turned and looked outside at the slowly recovering world.At the backlit colors in the sky, on his lawn. And he knew thetruth. The main truth, at least. This house had saved them.This big, beautiful cottage, which stayed big and beautiful despitethe destruction all around. Its stern banisters and woodceilings and determined rafters. The house had saved him, andhe wasn’t going to forget it.He was going to build his life here, right here, in the name oflove and honor and what ever else he was feeling, even if hecouldn’t name it for what it was: exhaustion.He was, finally, exhausted.He looked Anna right in the eye. “Things are going to be different,”he said.She nodded.“I’m staying,” he said, because they’d talked about the opposite,earlier, before—his leaving her, and here.“Why?” she said.“I want to,” he said.She got quiet. “You’re going to disappoint me,” she said.“Probably.” He was trying to make a joke, but it didn’t comeout that way. He tried again. “I think it’s going to turn out okay,”he said.“Starting when?” she asked. “Ending when?”Then, as if it were an answer, he pulled her in close to him,without reluctance, without anything like fear. “This house,” hesaid, “will see love. This house will see everything.”

Bookclub Guide

INTRODUCTIONGwyn Huntington knows how to throw a party. And Hunt Hall, her postcard-perfect Victorian home in Montauk at the easternmost tip of Long Island, is no stranger to celebrations. But on the morning of her thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, she’s putting finishing touches on the last party she’ll host there. The last time she’ll see Hunt Hall abuzz with caterers and bartenders. The last time she’ll preside over a gathering of beautiful friends chatting in candlelight. The last time she’ll fully play the role of Mrs. Thomas Huntington. Divorce parties have become commonplace, if not fashionable, in Montauk. But Gwyn is determined that hers will be different.Just over one hundred miles away on the same morning, Maggie Mackenzie sits on the floor of her Brooklyn apartment attempting to organize her new life. A former travel writer, she’s fallen in love with a wonderful man, gotten engaged, and is planning to start a business with him. Today is also the day she’ll meet her fiancé’s parents for the first time. She’s feeling particularly uneasy about the occasion surrounding her first meeting with Nate’s family.The Divorce Party takes us into the lives of these two women at opposite ends of marriage. For all the differences between them—distance, privilege, age—Gwyn and Maggie have one thing in common: Each has found herself at a crossroads. Gwyn has been preparing for this day, the last predictable day before an uncertain future. Even though she’s had time to come to terms with her divorce, she still can’t quite believe her marriage is over. How can she move on when her marriage has defined who she is for the last thirty-five years? And for Maggie, the emotionally charged trip to Montauk shakes the foundation of her relationship with Nate and dredges up feelings she has spent her life trying to avoid.In the end, Gwyn and Maggie face the same questions: How hard should you work to stay with the person you love? And when is it time to let go? ABOUT LAURA DAVELaura Dave is the author of the novels The Divorce Party and London is the Best City in America, both of which are in development at Universal Studios. Her writing has appeared in Glamour, The New York Times,Self, Redbook, ESPN the Magazine, and The New York Observer. She received her B.A. in English at the University of Pennsylvania and a graduate degree in creative writing at The University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns Fellow. She lives in New York City. A CONVERSATION WITH LAURA DAVEQ. How did you get the idea for The Divorce Party?Since I first learned about divorce parties, I have been intrigued by them. On one level, a divorce party makes sense to me as a concept: Let’s celebrate what we’ve had, as opposed to letting it end acrimoniously. On another level, I think marital break-ups are difficult for a reason: They are supposed to be. Something sacred between two people has broken down. Yet regardless of how we may personally feel about the idea of divorce parties, they are gaining a phenomenal momentum—and I wanted to explore this within the context of one family.This is the first novel to explore the world of divorce parties. My novel also ended up exploring in equal measure how we build a life with someone and how we keep that life secure.Q. The setting of the novel plays a big role in the story. Why did you choose Montauk?I have always been drawn to towns on the end of the earth: fishing towns, cliffside towns, towns with more ocean surrounding them than land. They require something different of their inhabitants. Living in a city there are so many distractions, so many ways to avoid knowing what is really going on inside of you, inside of your closest relationships. The quiet in Montauk—the solitude and isolation there—requires an attention to one’s own life that I greatly admire.I also like the juxtaposition of people who live in Montauk year-round and the summer people, who come in and try to take over for a while. There seems to be a reclaiming that occurs perennially—an acknowledgment each September that this place is ours—which is incredible to witness. That type of devotion to one’s home isn’t unlike what is necessary to keep a marriage strong or to keep a family together.Q. What prompted you to write the novel from two perspectives? Do you think the novel would have been different with a single narrator?Maggie was originally the sole narrator of The Divorce Party. It was going to be, more simply, a story of a woman struggling through the fast and hard realization that the life she was signing up for would be much different than she’d imagined. .But when I began writing a scene with Maggie’s mother-in-law Gwyn, my compassion for her was so ardent that I thought: There is something on this side of the story too. In fact, this is the other side of the same story. To truly understand what it means to sign up for one’s own life, we need to consider that despite our best intentions life can fall apart one day. At these very different life stages that Maggie and Gwyn find themselves in, there turn out to be the same difficult questions: What matters most to me and what am I willing to risk? And what, in this life, am I brave enough to fight for?Q. By following two women at such different points in their marriages, did you hope to explore something specific about marriage or relationships in general?I am interested in the question of forgiveness. Clearly, being able to truly forgive is necessary in order to stay with one person over the course of a lifetime, and certainly necessary if two people are to remain in love with each other. .I believe that there is no weakness in forgiveness. But we are conditioned these days to think that there is, that the brave thing is to move on when someone disappoints us. It makes it hard to make a relationship work, especially long-term, if the premium is as much on leaving as it is on figuring out a way to stay. .A Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön, wrote an amazing book called When Things Fall Apart, in which she talks about how the only way to stay in a sweat lodge—to experience all of the good and bad it brings—is to not sit near the exit. Because if you are sitting near the exit, you will find a reason to use it. I wanted to explore the idea that to find the joy in your relationship or marriage—to be present for it, to help it grow more sacred—you can’t be looking for a way out of it. .Q. Which story was more of a challenge to tell, Maggie’s or Gwyn’s?Maggie actually turned out be a harder nut to crack. She didn’t know herself very well. Or, I should say, she was in conflict about knowing herself as well as she did. Until her hand was forced about halfway through the narrative, I wasn’t sure what she was going to do—when she was going to overreact, when she was going to get mad about the wrong (or right) thing. But once Maggie tapped in to her own culpability in the problems she and Nate were having, she had a new journey. She had to learn to let go of her false notion that someone else was going to magically make the contradictions within her own soul disappear. Maggie is a character who, for very valid reasons, is always going to struggle with wanting to cut and run. Her question becomes: Am I going to disappear, like usual, or will I figure out a way to fight that impulse? .Q. Do you identify with any one of the characters more than the others?I identify with so many of the characters, and I want to hug all of them! Especially Thomas. I want to shake him, and then I want to hug him and make some soup for him. But at the end of the day—or the end of today, at least—I think I identify most strongly with Nate. Like Nate, I have been tempted to hit the “begin again” button many times in my life, and I understand all too well his desire to protect the people he loves the most from everything. Even from himself. It is a misplaced desire, and one that gets those of us who have it into heaps of trouble. But there is little doubt that Nate’s heart is in the right place.Q. Were you ever tempted to write a different ending for Gwyn and Thomas?I am still tempted. I want Gwyn to have everything she wants, and I think there is so much genuine love and affection between Thomas and her. It is heartbreaking. But I also believe that sometimes the universe has more compelling plans for us than we have for ourselves. Having faith in that can be freeing. And I certainly think that is the case for Gwyn, and all that is next for her.Q. Was the experience of writing this book different from your first, London Is the Best City in America?Very different, yes. The Divorce Party was more difficult because I was dealing with two narrators. I wanted to figure out how their stories were speaking to each other, as well as speaking on their own, and, in the midst of this, I was also dealing with very painful topics. At times I felt subsumed by the stories I was trying to tell. But I couldn’t seem to make myself give up, which I am grateful for. Nothing worth having comes easy, right? And now that I’ve finally come to the end, I feel great pride in this book.Q. Is it true that The Divorce Party is being made into a movie?I am pleased to say yes! The movie rights to The Divorce Party were picked up by Universal Studios for Echo Films, Jennifer Aniston and Kristin Hahn’s new production company. I am so excited about that—I think it is going to be a great movie.Q. What are you working on now?I am working on my third novel, which takes place in Big Sur, California. It is a story about a thirty-three-year old woman, and her father, Kyle, who is a former San Francisco 49er, and who raised her alone from the time he was nineteen. This is the only time I’ve started a book by writing the final scene first. And I’m pretty sure—now that I’m talking about the scene—that I’m going to have to toss it. But while I still have it, I love it. DISCUSSION QUESTIONSNate suggests that people with some money act differently than people with a lot of money. What does he mean? If you were to come into a large sum of money, in what ways would you expect it to change you? How would you want your life to stay the same? Gwyn seems to place most of the blame for her marital problems squarely on her husband. How much responsibility does Eve bear? Do you think Gwyn should have been harder on her? How much responsibility lies with Gwyn? Put yourself in Maggie’s shoes. Would your trust in Nate be shattered? Do you think you’d be able to overcome your uncertainty about him? Is it ever best not to know the truth? Do you think a divorce party is a good idea? Would you hold a celebration for a divorce or a break-up? Would you attend one? How do you see Gwyn faring? What about her husband’s relationship with Eve? How do you expect it to evolve? Should Gwyn have confronted Thomas earlier? How do you think their story would have been different? In what ways has Maggie been affected by her mother’s leaving? What about Nate and Georgia? How have they been affected by their relationships with their parents? Do you know women like Murphy? Why do you think she would make up a crazy story and make a stranger uncomfortable? Maggie could have avoided worrying about Murphy if she’d only confronted Nate about what Murphy said. If she’d come right out and asked him, do you think Maggie would have believed Nate’s denial? Music is woven throughout The Divorce Party and is ultimately critical to the book’s resolution. Why is music such an important part of love stories?

Editorial Reviews

"A revealing, honest portrait of how love binds us together-and drives us apart." -Kate Jacobs, author of The Friday Night Knitting Club " Events unfold over the course of a day, but the lessons learned have their roots in a lifetime." -Elle " Incredibly deft, utterly satisfying . . . I love every character. A triumph of a first novel!" -Melissa Bank, author of The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing "Elegant, accessible prose and compelling portraits of relationships." - Cosmopolitan