I couldn’t help myself – despite going nuts with trying to figure out HTML and keep track of all the updates, I’ve read another book from the 117 funny books on offer at #ComedyBookWeek. This is not an ordinary event, and it features some not-so-ordinary books. It shouldn’t be surprising then, that Beaver vs, Beaver came out at me from the left field. It’s a humorous memoir of a divorce lawyer, striking out on her own for the first time, and landing her very first client – a multi-millionaire, no less. I don’t know what I expected, although it was probably something along the lines of Ally McBeal. It promised an insider look into the family law court, and I settled in, looking forward to some light reading and maybe relieving my dreams of being an attorney. ‘Cause I could totally do that. I work hard, and I can look adorable when in the right mood and viewed from the right angle.
Oh. My. God. This was so not Ally McBeal.
Yes, it’s an insight into the law practice, alright. And yes – it’s funny when Portia Porter pulls down the pants of the legal practice and reveals all of its warts. It’s like she’s the Julian Assange of family law, but without that rapey vibe. There’s the part towards the end of the book, where the narrative steps away from the main story and details some of the ways the lawyers go about screwing each other, the judge, vice versa, the client and vice versa, and various combinations of the above. Because of that, I see this book as a short course for potential clients, told in a humorous way. Portia is also a Malcolm Gladwell of sorts – educating you about something as painful and dry as divorce proceedings through storytelling and humor.
The story is told from the first person, but you get to understand what Portia in the story doesn’t yet know. It’s gut-wrenching in the way that makes people in movie theaters yell “Don’t open that door!” I actually had to stop in the middle of the book and take a walk when she did open that door – the pain of anticipating the ultimate swindle was excruciating. I don’t want to reveal too much, sufficient to say that I found the resolution of the story very satisfying.
The voice of the book is both intelligent and lighthearted:
“Lawyers on TV—at least the ones who play the good sort—never have the smallest problems with their memory and organization. All the exhibits are always at their fingertips, they never forget a date, they have the statutory Codes memorized cold, even when they must quote what is a five sub-paragraph deep citation.”
“8:55 A.M. Judge’s bench still empty. It’s just me, Ms. “Human Coil” Boom and the sheriff.
9:10 A.M. No change.
9:20 A.M. No change.
9:25 A.M. Starting to lose hope. The judge forgot about us probably.
10:10 A.M. The back door opens . . . false alarm! It’s the Judge’s Secretary Tonya, the author of the cryptic email.”
Expertly written, flowing prose has been just as expertly edited, something that is too often overlooked. I’ve learned quite a few things from reading this book – for starters, that I’m not cut out for the court. That if I ever do have to hire a lawyer, I’ll make sure I won’t have to fire him or her. Oh, and that I will have to read her other books: Can You Stiff Your Divorce Lawyer? and Alienation of Affections.
Buy Beaver vs. Beaver to read just for kicks, and then to keep on your bookshelf, you know, just in case. Buy it if you or anyone you know is considering a divorce. And, for the love of God, buy it for that bright-eyed daughter or niece of yours that is nurturing dreams of being the next Ally McBeal.
You can thank me later.