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Book Public: ‘The Divorcées’ by Rowan Beaird

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Rowan Beaird
Photo: Faith Kelsey Photography
Rowan Beaird

Divorce ranches were a thing in the 1950s and 1960s—in the times before no-fault divorce—which didn’t become legal in some states until 1969.

Women who were denied the right to divorce could live on these ranches, in these hotels, to establish residency. Then they could file for divorce in a Nevada court.

The clients or tenants of these ranches were mainly women from New York and New Jersey–and other states–who went West searching for what was commonly and colloquially known as “the Reno cure.”

Nevada had passed a law back in 1932 that made it the quickest state in which to get a divorce. A six–week period is all that was required to establish a residency in order to be able to file for divorce.

Sounds like a compelling place to situate a novel, with characters who are lonely and scared—women—some of whom are on their own for the first time and who must spend six weeks in residency trying to get along with everyone else. It’s not always an easy transaction.

Those are some of the tensions we see in Rowan Beaird’s novel The Divorcées.

Lois Saunders really thought that marrying the right man would cure the loneliness she’d felt all her life. But her marriage is loveless.

Unhappiness was not grounds for divorce in 1951—except in Reno Nevada—at the Golden Yarrow divorce ranch, to be precise.

The Golden Yarrow was considered to be one of the most respectable of the divorce ranches in Reno. The women there spend their time riding horses or swimming in the pool. Their personalities emerge, and life is a little more tense than not.

Enter Greer Lang. Life as Lois knows it will become even more complicated. Will she find happiness? Will her sense of loneliness finally be a thing of the past?

Rowan Beaird is the author of The Divorcées.

Yvette Benavides can be reached at bookpublic@tpr.org.