cover image Early Morning Riser

Early Morning Riser

Katherine Heiny. Knopf, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-525-65934-1

This touching and fizzy comic novel by Heiny (Standard Deviation) makes the ordinary extraordinary. Jane, 26, moves to a small town in northern Michigan in 2002 to teach second grade. She immediately falls for Duncan, a charming if not entirely reliable woodworker who looks “like the Brawny towel man,” has been divorced for 10 years (but still does the household maintenance his ex’s current husband doesn’t enjoy doing), and about whom Jane’s best friend, the mandolin-toting Freida, warns her, “He’s had an awful lot of girlfriends.” Heiny follows Jane and Duncan through the next 17 years, stopping in to investigate their various breakups and marriages, with ample attention paid to dysfunctional dinner parties and school field trips run amok. The author knows just how to pull the rug out, such as a chapter on Jane’s first wedding that ends with a premonition of a medical emergency involving Jane’s mother. Heiny surrounds Jane and Duncan with a full range of quirky friends and relatives who perform key roles in shaping their lives. A deep awareness of the ways the potential for tragedy lies just beneath the surface of small-town life gives the proceedings a sense of gravity and holds the humor in perfect balance. This is a winner. Agent: Kimberly Witherspoon, InkWell Management. (Apr.)