REVIEW: Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny

In brief: Jane moves to town and falls in love with Duncan, which seems to be a right of passage in Boyne City. Everyone seems to have known Duncan rather well. But one night will change everything, and Jane finds her life not only involves Duncan, but his ex-wife Aggie and colleague Jimmy. It’s not what she wanted, but will she learn to love it?

The good: A fantastically written story that is just beautiful.

The not-so-good: Finishing it!

Why I chose it: Have heard many good things about this book and Katherine Heiny’s writing.

Year: 2021

Pages: 317

Publisher: 4th Estate (Harper Collins)

Setting: Boyne City, Michigan

Rating: 10 out of 10

Early Morning Riser is not about anything big, or globally dramatic but it’s just such a fantastic novel. It’s the story of Jane, a teacher new to the small town of Boyne City and her life. What makes the story special are the details of the characters and their reactions to big and small things in their lives. It’s entirely realistic and makes for compulsive reading.

Jane falls in love with Duncan, a furniture restorer who also doubles as a locksmith. He’s also been with the majority of women in Boyne City and surrounds. But Duncan is a caring man, despite his flaws and has the ability to remain friends with anyone he’s slept with. That includes his ex-wife Aggie (whose lawn he still mows as her husband Gary has dislikes or aversions to nearly everything). Everyone knows Duncan and knows he’s a good man. He looks after Jimmy, his employee well and is always open to doing an odd job or two. At first Jane isn’t OK with sharing Duncan. But after a tragic event, she comes around to see that sharing Duncan with others might make for an easier life. Or not. It’s a messy life, but it’s less lonely sharing things with Duncan, Aggie, Jimmy and her friends.

Nothing greatly out of the ordinary happens in Early Morning Riser but it is still incredibly fascinating reading. Jane’s tales of her second-grade class are amusing and Jimmy’s observations are sweet. Duncan’s constant avoidance regarding overdue furniture commissions are funny and Gary’s list of things he can’t handle is extraordinary long (and amusing). Even Aggie’s bossy ways and perfect cooking are endearing. The way Katherine Heiny writes is nothing short of amazing. I truly cared for all the characters and what was happening, whether it was Jane’s attempts to hold a school excursion to a terrible farm together or just make dinner. As the reader follows Jane, they also follow her growth from young woman to mother and being more experienced. Jane wishes that many things were different in her life and it’s the gradual changing of her definition of what family is and means that is delightful to read. It’s beautifully plotted with characters that seem far too real, like crotchety Patrice to sort-of-wrong-but-so sweet Duncan. It’s the type of book that sucks you in like an action thriller, but because of the writing as the characters. It’s realistic, messy life at its best with the little details that make this book sing.

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