Tag Archives: general fiction

Standard Deviation – Katherine Heiny

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A rueful, funny examination of love, marriage, infidelity, and origami. Simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking, this sensational debut will appeal to fans of David Nicholls, Nick Hornby, Nora Ephron and Lorrie Moore

Graham Cavanaugh’s second wife, Audra, is everything his first wife was not. She considers herself privileged to live in the age of the hair towel, talks non-stop through her epidural, labour and delivery, invites the doorman to move in and the eccentric members of their son’s Origami Club to Thanksgiving.

She is charming and spontaneous and fun but life with her can be exhausting. In the midst of the day-to-day difficulties and delights of marriage and raising a child with Asperger’s, his first wife, Elspeth, reenters Graham’s life. Former spouses are hard to categorize – are they friends, enemies, old flames, or just people who know you really, really well?

Graham starts to wonder: How can anyone love two such different women? Did he make the right choice? Is there a right choice?

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Although Katherine Heiny’s short stories have previously appeared in various publications, I believe Standard Deviation is her first full length novel and what a delight!

I really wasn’t sure what to expect but it is very funny; full of joy and love, but with just a few heartbreaking moments.

It’s a family story based around Graham, his second wife Audra and their 10 year old son, Matthew. ‘Standard Deviation’ is a reference to their son’s scores in various assessment tests which had led to a diagnosis of Aspergers.

Graham is a bit older and fairly quiet. His first wife, Elspeth was very cool, calm, collected and in control. Audra is the complete opposite. She never stops talking – about anyone and anything – the just opens her mouth and keeps going. Says what she thinks. She comes out with the most inappropriate things at the most awkward moments. If she doesn’t know the whole story she just makes things up. She thinks everyone should be a friend: talks to everyone, invites random characters to come for a meal or even stay with them, which leads to some great storytelling. She just has no filter. Volunteers for things, kind of meddles in things, even wants to become involved in the life of Graham’s first wife. At the same time, I really liked her. She’s not a bad person. In fact she’s a wonderful character but as I was reading I kept thinking, “Oh no. Don’t say that! Oh please!”

They worry about Matthew and want the best for him. Audra latches on to any interest Matthew might have and runs with it. He gets interested in origami so she finds an origami ‘club’ for him. We encounter more eccentric but wonderful characters and hilarious escapades.

It’s not all fun and laughter. There are a few thoughtful moments and some poignant episodes. It’s not all plain sailing but you just hope that things will work out well for everyone in the end.

I really enjoyed the book. It’s a well written, entertaining novel with interesting characters and good dialogue. It made me laugh out loud a few times. I certainly wouldn’t mind if there was a sequel. In fact I would be delighted!

Standard Deviation is due to be published in hardcover on 1 June 2017

[My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for an advance copy]

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