Novel Approach: Humor and disaster shine in ‘Early Morning Riser’

“Home is where you are loved the most and act the worst.”— Marjorie Pay Hinckley

Some books are driven by dynamic moments in the plot, like war or death or the pursuit to travel back in time and prevent a zombie apocalypse caused by a radioactive potato chip (okay, so I don’t know if that last one is a real book yet, but if it is please let me know). Other books are more contemplative or focus on a character’s internal journeys. Our latest book is neither, it shares the witty and silly life of a second grade teacher and her family in a small city in Michigan.

Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny

To call the characters in Katherine Heiny’s latest novel eccentric would be putting it mildly. If anything, it seems that many of the “Early Morning Riser” characters would fit in well with the zany and, at times, baffling folks that populated the fictional town of Stars Hollow in “Gilmore Girls.”

The novel follows Jane’s life after she moves to Boyne City for a new teaching position. Not too long after arriving, she meets Duncan, an older man who seems to have slept with nearly every woman in the surrounding area.

That, however, doesn’t stop the two from falling in love. While Jane is blissfully happy, Duncan’s commitment issues cause friction in their relationship. Throw in his bossy ex-wife Aggie, her bizarre new husband, and Jimmy — Duncan’s perpetually present best friend and coworker — and readers quickly observe that Jane and Duncan’s relationship isn’t a bicycle, but rather a vehicle with one too many wheels.

Heiny tells Jane’s story, beginning with her arrival to Boyne City in 2002, and weaves the story around how one moment drastically changed her life and led her to 2019 with her close-knit and slightly off-kilter family.

Nothing about this book is expected. The characters each have such distinct personalities, as Jane tries to navigate her career and personal life around a perplexing second grade teacher, her mandolin-obsessed best friend, her passion for thrift stores, trying to go anywhere without running into one of Duncan’s many exes and navigating the conversational minefields with Aggie and her puzzling husband.

Packed with Jane’s amusing observations and teacher musings, “Early Morning Riser” is a splendidly comical tale of an unconventional family that celebrates and skirts disaster together.

From the book jacket…

Jane falls in love with Duncan easily. He is charming, good-natured, and handsome but unfortunately, he has also slept with nearly every woman in Boyne City, Michigan. Jane sees Duncan’s old girlfriends everywhere-at restaurants, at the grocery store, even three towns away.

While Jane may be able to come to terms with dating the world’s most prolific seducer of women, she wishes she did not have to share him quite so widely. His ex-wife, Aggie, a woman with shiny hair and pale milkmaid skin, still has Duncan mow her lawn. His coworker, Jimmy, comes and goes from Duncan’s apartment at the most inopportune times. Sometimes Jane wonders if a relationship can even work with three people in it-never mind four. Five if you count Aggie’s eccentric husband, Gary. Not to mention all the other residents of Boyne City, who freely share with Jane their opinions of her choices.

But any notion Jane had of love and marriage changes with one terrible car crash. Soon Jane’s life is permanently intertwined with Duncan’s, Aggie’s, and Jimmy’s, and Jane knows she will never have Duncan to herself. But could it be possible that a deeper kind of happiness is right in front of Jane’s eyes?

If you enjoy…

For readers looking to enjoy more of Heiny’s witty tales featuring characters with large personalities consider reading her marriage-centric novel “Standard Deviation.”