Margaret (Margy) Klaw is a lawyer by trade, not a writer. But she’s also part of a prominent Cornwall literary family. So perhaps it’s only natural that in her sixties, her third act involved becoming a novelist. Her first novel, Every Other Weekend, was released in May, and the author will discuss it at the Cornwall Library at 5 P.M. on Saturday, July 1.
Margy is the granddaughter of Irita Van Doren, the longtime book review editor of the New York Herald Tribune, and Carl Van Doren, a critic and Pulitzer-winning biographer. They bought their house on Cream Hill in 1920. Margy is the youngest of four daughters of Spencer and Barbara Klaw, both well-known writers and editors. She has fond memories of spending summers in Cornwall and swimming at Cream Hill Lake.
After college and law school, Margy settled in Philadelphia and became a founding partner of BKW Family Law, an all-woman firm.
Margy always loved to write and found everyone interested in what family lawyers do. So, taking inspiration from the way the doctors Atul Gawande and Oliver Sacks turned their professional interests into literary ones, she started blogging about her work in 2007. Her observations on marriage and law titled, “Family Law Unraveled,” were featured on The Huffington Post.
Then, in 2013, with the help of Cornwall resident Carol Schneider who worked at the Algonquin Press, Margy published her first book, Keeping it Civil: The Case of the Prenup and the Porsche & Other True Accounts from the Files of a Family Lawyer.
The collection of true stories with names and details changed to preserve confidentiality featured one significant exception. Threaded between the carefully disguised true stories was a fictional account of a custody battle. Margy loved writing fiction and wanted to try her hand at a novel.
Carving time out of her law practice, she set Fridays as her writing days and got to work. Forty pages in, she realized, “I had no idea what I was doing.” She asked writer friends for lessons on narrative tension, structure, and character development, and started over. She found an agent to shop her revised manuscript around. No takers. Undaunted, Margy revised some more based on rounds with friends, family, and one particularly vocal book club. Finally, her novel found a home at She Writes Press.
The story centers on a divorce told from multiple perspectives, a forty-ish hipster husband and wife, their daughters, his lawyer, his younger, polyamorous lover, friends, a judge — even the family dog. As a reader, I found that the novel’s shifting voices compelled me to keep reading to find out whose “truth” was accurate. Margy said that factual and moral ambiguity was a goal. After years in courtrooms, Margy knew, “There are so many things that are perceived differently by people.” It’s not because anyone is lying, but because combatants “perceive a certain encounter, a certain thing that happened, differently.”
Margy said she is planning her next novel, but this time, she wants to expand beyond her professional knowledge and write about something new.
Register here to join the library event in person or by Zoom.