A "delicious" (Rebecca Makkai) and "deeply compelling" (Lauren Groff) debut novel set at a 1950s Reno "divorce ranch," about the complex friendship between two women who dare to imagine a different future
Lois Saunders thought that marrying the right man would finally cure her loneliness. But as picture-perfect as her husband is, she is suffocating in their loveless marriage. In 1951, though, unhappiness is hardly grounds for divorce—except in Reno, Nevada.
At the Golden Yarrow, the most respectable of Reno’s famous “divorce ranches,” Lois finds herself living with half a dozen other would-be divorcees, all in Reno for the six weeks’ residency that is the state’s only divorce requirement. They spend their days riding horses and their nights flirting with cowboys, and it’s as wild and fun as Lake Forest, Illinois, is prim and stifling. But it isn’t until Greer Lang arrives that Lois’s world truly cracks open. Gorgeous, beguiling, and completely indifferent to societal convention, Greer is unlike anyone Lois has ever met—and she sees something in Lois that no one else ever has. Under her influence, Lois begins to push against the limits that have always restrained her. How far will she go to forge her independence, on her own terms?
Set in the glamorous, dizzying world of 1950s Reno, where housewives and movie stars rubbed shoulders at gin-soaked casinos, The Divorcees is a riveting page-turner and a dazzling exploration of female friendship, desire, and freedom.
About the Author
Rowan Beaird is a fiction writer whose work has appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, and The Common, among others. She is the recipient of the Ploughshares Emerging Writer Award, and her work has been nominated for a Pushcart. She has received scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and StoryStudio, and she currently works at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The Divorcées is her debut novel.
A Most Anticipated Book (Entertainment Weekly, Elle, Today.com, Goodreads, Good Housekeeping, Chicago Review of Books, BookBub, Paste, Zibby Mag)
“Beaird digs into the idiosyncrasies of midcentury Reno, Nevada, when it was the divorce capital of the world in this journey into an oft-untapped era in fiction…Through the eyes of a more glamorous world, Beaird examines the true meaning of friendship and freedom.”
“In The Divorcées, the 1950s-era women deposited at the Golden Yarrow are waiting out the six-week residency that the state of Nevada requires for divorce, only for one of them (the aforementioned Lois) to encounter the entrancing Greer Lang. Their ensuing trip through sun-baked desert and neon-lit casinos tempts Lois to shed the restraints of her former self—even if she isn’t sure who she’ll be on the other side.”
“An eye-opening and unforgettable read about the lives whose stories were frequently left untold…It immediately marks Beaird as a writer to watch for years to come.”
—Chicago Review of Books
“This complex story of female friendship is set at a 1950s ‘divorce ranch’ in Reno, where women can file to leave their husbands after six weeks of Nevada residency. We stan women seizing their own agency in any era.”
“Sparkling, lushly imagined…The Divorcées is tender and compassionate, wise and incisive, and gorgeously rendered, even in heart-rending moments. Lois's journey of growth and exploration forms a masterful and unforgettable debut.”
“Beaird shines in her impressive debut about a group of divorcées-to-be in 1950s Reno, Nevada…Readers will eagerly follow Beaird’s skillful plotting and appealing characters all the way through the final page. This author is one to watch.”
"Though it’s filled with colorful imagery, dark green dresses and burgundy lips, Beaird’s debut has the hypnotic pacing and dramatic ambience of an old black-and-white film. Her research about the divorce-ranch phenomenon and its period expresses itself in myriad small, compelling details...A transporting psychological novel of friendship and betrayal, with the moody period feel of a Hitchcock film."
“Beaird’s debut is a searing, painfully honest story about the difficulties women faced in the 1950s and the lengths to which they would go to gain their freedom. Lois and Greer are brilliantly written, utterly different, and yet each of them is desperate, and both are willing to push themselves to extreme limits to discover who they are, what they want, and what they truly deserve.”
“A twisty tale about learning to take responsibility for one’s own life…The history of ‘divorce ranches’ in the United States is fascinating as depicted in this novel, and Lois’s growing independence is compelling. A good choice for readers and book groups interested in 20th-century historical fiction that deals with women’s issues.”
“This is the novel I've always wanted to read about divorce in midcentury America: the glamour and underbelly of Reno's divorce ranches, the support of female friendship, and the impossibility (and glorious possibilities) of starting over as a single woman. The Divorcées is a delicious literary page-turner from a fierce new voice.”
—Rebecca Makkai, New York Times bestselling author of I Have Some Questions for You and The Great Believers
“The Divorcées is gorgeously crafted, perfectly balanced, and full of complex, moving and vividly wrought characters. The sunshot pool at the Golden Yarrow, the searing desert heat, the dark glamour of the casinos will stay with me for a long time. Rowan Beaird writes with such ease and confidence that it's hard to believe this novel is her first. An excellent, deeply compelling read.”
—Lauren Groff, New York Times bestselling author of Matrix and Fates and Furies
“A stunning debut, Rowan Beaird’s The Divorcées is a glittering desert mirage behind which lurks a shocking web of secrets. Despite the new friendships and lives being built at the Golden Yarrow, each woman on the ranch harbors a truth they aren’t willing to share: that they’re playing a part and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to keep the fiction alive. Tense, dark, and richly layered, lovers of Patricia Highsmith will devour this compulsively readable, standout novel."
—Katy Hays, New York Times bestselling author of The Cloisters
“The Divorcées is my favorite kind of novel: a beautifully written, wholly immersive exploration of the performances women employ for survival. Set amid the heady glamour of Reno’s divorce ranches, The Divorcées mines what we will do for acceptance, belonging, and the privilege of carving out a life for ourselves. Rowan Beaird writes with both deep compassion and merciless precision—a fierce talent.”
—Katie Gutierrez, national bestselling author of More Than You’ll Ever Know
“The Divorcées, a sultry fever dream of a novel set on a Reno divorce ranch in the 1950s, should be read by a pool on a blisteringly hot day, preferably with a drink in hand. Its lush, perfectly wrought prose—and the secrets and deceptions at the center of the seductive plot—will unsettle you and keep you turning the pages. This book shimmers and startles on every page.”
—Whitney Scharer, author of The Age of Light
“LOVED it. Tightly-plotted elegance, 50s glamour and suspense. Put it on your lists!”
―Jessie Burton, New York Times bestselling author of The Miniaturist
“If Patricia Highsmith and George Cukor teamed up to reimagine Thelma and Louise, it might look something like this smoldering, addictive, and beguiling novel of women on the verge. Whether they're on the verge of dissolution, liberation, or some fraught state in-between, Rowan Beaird captures their becoming in prose that thrums with an anxious and defiant eros. A knockout of a debut.”
—Christopher Castellani, author of Leading Men
“The women of The Divorcées captivated me: drenched in desert light, searching for themselves in every possible mirror. Their relationships to one another, gorgeously rendered, have an intensity fueled by self-discovery—these are connections full of deep understanding, shocking deception, devastating betrayal, and real love. Beaird is a wondrous new talent who has given us an unforgettable, lushly assured novel.”
—Clare Beams, author of The Illness Lesson
“The alluring and fascinating backdrop of a divorce ranch for women in the '50s is reason enough to dive into Rowan Beaird’s stunning debut novel, The Divorcees, but that is just the beginning. This beautifully crafted, suspenseful journey of secrets and intrigue will hold readers spellbound.”
—Jill McCorkle, New York Times bestselling author of Hieroglyphics and Life After Life
“I straight up loved it. It's so stylish, so elegant, each sentence a delectable little treat…and the nods towards darkness and things unravelling are so thrilling and chicly done.”
―Elizabeth Macneal, #1 international bestselling author of The Doll Factory
“I adored The Divorcées —such an atmospheric and layered story of female independence, solidarity and deception, set on a Reno ‘divorce ranch’ in 1951. As a divorcée, I devoured it.”
―Julie Mae Cohen, international bestselling author of Bad Men