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A wise, bighearted, boundlessly joyful novel of love, disaster, and unconventional family 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 m A wise, bighearted, boundlessly joyful novel of love, disaster, and unconventional family 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? A novel that is alternately bittersweet and laugh-out-loud funny, Katherine Heiny’s Early Morning Riser is her most astonishingly wonderful work to date.


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A wise, bighearted, boundlessly joyful novel of love, disaster, and unconventional family 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 m A wise, bighearted, boundlessly joyful novel of love, disaster, and unconventional family 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? A novel that is alternately bittersweet and laugh-out-loud funny, Katherine Heiny’s Early Morning Riser is her most astonishingly wonderful work to date.

30 review for Early Morning Riser

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paromjit

    Having loved Standard Deviation, I was looking forward with great anticipation to Katherine Heiny's latest novel, which brims with her trademark humour, warmth, and wit. Like another of my favourite writers, Elizabeth Strout, she captures the extraordinary in the ordinariness in her inspired characters, whilst revealing the heart of a small town American community, in this case, Boyne City in Michigan. 26 year old elementary teacher, Jane, meets, Duncan, in his early forties, within the first mo Having loved Standard Deviation, I was looking forward with great anticipation to Katherine Heiny's latest novel, which brims with her trademark humour, warmth, and wit. Like another of my favourite writers, Elizabeth Strout, she captures the extraordinary in the ordinariness in her inspired characters, whilst revealing the heart of a small town American community, in this case, Boyne City in Michigan. 26 year old elementary teacher, Jane, meets, Duncan, in his early forties, within the first month of relocating for her new job when he arrives at her home after she has locked herself out. He is handsome, kind, and she falls for him hook, line and sinker, unaware initially that he has, it seems, slept with every woman in town. Everywhere she goes, she comes face to face with these women, with whom he manages mostly to remain on friendly terms. He even helps with mowing the lawn of his beautiful ex-wife, Aggie, and her second husband, Gary. We follow Jane's life through almost two decades of her life, the class of children she teaches, and the ins and outs of her relationships with best friend, Frieda, a music teacher who is never to be seen without her mandolin, Duncan's work colleague, Jimmy, with his learning difficulties, the organising Aggie, who is a wonderful cook, and Gary. There are times Jane wishes that she and Duncan had more alone time with each other, and Aggie ignites resentment, fear, and all her inner insecurities. However, a tragedy and guilt is to shape her more expansive perception of what family is, whilst becoming a parent and raising two daughters, Glenn and the more challenging Patrice, and fostering a closer relationship with Aggie with its changing dynamics through the years. Heiny's beautifully written prose is assured and confident, her vibrant and perceptive storytelling shines with its intelligence, tenderness, observations and humour that draws the reader skilfully into the small town world she creates, with her wide range of characters that feel authentic, idiosyncratic and imbued with their all too human flaws. My favourite character is Jimmy, a pivotal person who illustrates the emotional depth of Duncan's character, gelling the small circle of supportive friends more closely together, and provides Jane with the opportunity to come to terms with a more broader definition and understanding of what and who is family. This is a wonderfully joyful book and a sheer bliss of a reading experience, of life, love, loss, family, friendship and community that will appeal to so many readers. Highly recommended. Many thanks to HarperCollins 4th Estate for an ARC.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Regina

    Loved, loved, loved it! Early Morning Riser is a slim, 336-page book that took me longer than usual to read because I savored every word. Picking it up each night was like sliding into a bed made of clouds and floating on air. Comfortable… and comforting. The novel is broken into seven parts, each a lengthy glimpse into the life of small-town elementary school teacher Jane in a given year starting in 2002 and ending in 2019. This style allows the author to go into great detail about Jane’s world, Loved, loved, loved it! Early Morning Riser is a slim, 336-page book that took me longer than usual to read because I savored every word. Picking it up each night was like sliding into a bed made of clouds and floating on air. Comfortable… and comforting. The novel is broken into seven parts, each a lengthy glimpse into the life of small-town elementary school teacher Jane in a given year starting in 2002 and ending in 2019. This style allows the author to go into great detail about Jane’s world, thoughts, and relationships over the span of two decades without turning the book into a doorstop. While there is some tragedy, Early Morning Riser has a fairly low-stakes plot that falls somewhere between drama and uplit. I suppose “dramedy” is the descriptor that fits best. Remember that TV show “Northern Exposure?” It’s a little like that. Quirky characters, real-life situations portrayed in an honest way, and just good old-fashioned exceptional writing. If you’re a reader that needs a compelling mystery to pull you through the pages of a book, this is probably not a great choice for you. But if you want to spend time in a gentle world at the end of a long day, this is the place. My thanks goes to Katherine Heiny and 4th Estate / William Collins Books for the gifted advance copy via NetGalley to review. It’s been a pleasure. Blog: www.confettibookshelf.com IG: @confettibookshelf

  3. 5 out of 5

    JanB

    If you are looking for the perfect feel-good summer (or any season!) read, this is it! I loved the author’s book Standard Deviation, and while this one doesn't have the same snarky humor, the overriding theme and excellent writing remains. People are complicated, and life doesn’t always turns out in ways you anticipate. Families are messy, infuriating, quirky, lovely, they will drive you crazy one moment and give you moments of unexpected joy and contentment the next. Often we don’t value what is If you are looking for the perfect feel-good summer (or any season!) read, this is it! I loved the author’s book Standard Deviation, and while this one doesn't have the same snarky humor, the overriding theme and excellent writing remains. People are complicated, and life doesn’t always turns out in ways you anticipate. Families are messy, infuriating, quirky, lovely, they will drive you crazy one moment and give you moments of unexpected joy and contentment the next. Often we don’t value what is right in front of us. None of this is new of course. Plenty of books have those themes and you may be tempted to pass this one by as yet another book with a tired trope. Don’t make this mistake! What makes all the difference are the characters and the WAY the story is told. We follow Jane & Duncan, and all the people in their orbit, from 2002 to 2019. The emotions and the dialogue is realistic, and the characters are wise and funny. All are REAL, complicated, broken, chaotic….and I loved all of them. But their friend Jimmy who has developmental delays – oh my, he has my heart! ❤️ Can a marriage work with more than two people in it? It’s not what you think, and the answer is a resounding yes. Families aren't always conventional. Katherine Heiny writes with sensitivity and tenderness about that which makes us human and binds us together. The humor prevents it from becoming trite and maudlin. To paraphrase the popular show, Seinfeld, it’s a book about nothing, yet about so much. I suggest spending some time with this one at a stretch in order to get into the rhythm of the story and get to know the characters. It is not one to read in short snippets. This is not a thrilling compulsive page-turner, it’s a quiet book that will take hold of your heart in unexpected ways and make you wish you were part of Jane & Duncan’s lives. I turned the last page with a smile on my face, and a lump in my throat. I adore this author and will read anything she writes. Katherine Heiny is now firmly on my short list of authors who can write about the day-to-day ordinary life in an extraordinary way. * I received a digital copy of this book via Edelweiss. All opinions are my own.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Farrah (on a short hiatus!)

    ⭐ 4.5 Simple Yet Wonderful Stars! ⭐ 𝙀𝙖𝙧𝙡𝙮 𝙈𝙤𝙧𝙣𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙍𝙞𝙨𝙚𝙧 is the story of Jane, through two decades, after she falls in love with a man with a big history in a small town. Really that's almost the entire plot. It's not twisty or flashy. It's heart is it's quirky characters in their day to day life and it's low-key, gentle humor. There's a bit of drama and conflict but mostly it highlights how every day, even the bad ones! have moments to be treasured. Yesterday afternoon I had a rare quiet hour whi ⭐ 4.5 Simple Yet Wonderful Stars! ⭐ 𝙀𝙖𝙧𝙡𝙮 𝙈𝙤𝙧𝙣𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙍𝙞𝙨𝙚𝙧 is the story of Jane, through two decades, after she falls in love with a man with a big history in a small town. Really that's almost the entire plot. It's not twisty or flashy. It's heart is it's quirky characters in their day to day life and it's low-key, gentle humor. There's a bit of drama and conflict but mostly it highlights how every day, even the bad ones! have moments to be treasured. Yesterday afternoon I had a rare quiet hour while no one else was home so I made coffee, cut myself a piece of the strawberry cake that I had baked that morning and read a few chapters of this and it was all such BLISS! It was the peaceful time that I needed and this was the perfect book for it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ceecee

    4.5 rounded up. What a lovely book! This is the story of Jane, an infant school teacher and her family and friends from 2002 to the present day. The little vignettes of their lives at specific times works really well as we follow the changes. This is a clever, well written book as it’s basically about normal life, about being human, focusing on family life and the meaning and depth of friendship and love. It’s heartwarming without being mushy, it’s life affirming, very astutely observed with dia 4.5 rounded up. What a lovely book! This is the story of Jane, an infant school teacher and her family and friends from 2002 to the present day. The little vignettes of their lives at specific times works really well as we follow the changes. This is a clever, well written book as it’s basically about normal life, about being human, focusing on family life and the meaning and depth of friendship and love. It’s heartwarming without being mushy, it’s life affirming, very astutely observed with dialogue that is wry, witty and authentic. It’s amusing in places as several characters come out with classic one liners. The characters are fantastic and well depicted so that you can visualise them. Jane thinks quite harshly of herself at times but she’s wonderful and incredibly kind especially to Jimmy who hangs the whole book together with his sweet, innocent and utterly guileless personality. Jimmy has learning difficulties and becomes an integral part of the family and friendship group and is much loved. He’s an absolute delight from start to finish. I hadn’t realised how utterly invested in his story I’d become until I felt tears in my eyes! All the characters are interesting from husband Duncan who has a reputation (deserved) as a ladies man, Jane’s mother Phyllis who is a tour de force, she makes you laugh with her forthrightness - a polite term for rude, her capable friend Aggie and her useless husband Gary. What were you thinking Aggie???? Jane’s children Glenn and Patrice provide some humour too, Patrice is a hilarious challenge and I’m so glad she’s not mine! The scenes in Jane’s classroom make me smile in recognition- every class has a Tad. Unfortunately! Overall, a sweet, acutely observed, entertaining novel with wonderful characters which I recommend to fans of authors such as Anne Tyler. With thanks to NetGalley and especially to 4th Estate for the much appreciated arc in return for an honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook...read by Kate Rudd . . . 10 hours and 11 minutes Have you ever in your life wanted an interim relationship, If yes please do tell. This is a story I’d enjoy hearing about. I thought it was so incredibly presumptuous that Duncan assumed Jane wanted an interim relationship, because after all she was young, only 26 years of age, and Duncan was 40, clear he was never going to get married again, figured that Jane would look for somebody more serious when the time came—Duncan assumed he was Audiobook...read by Kate Rudd . . . 10 hours and 11 minutes Have you ever in your life wanted an interim relationship, If yes please do tell. This is a story I’d enjoy hearing about. I thought it was so incredibly presumptuous that Duncan assumed Jane wanted an interim relationship, because after all she was young, only 26 years of age, and Duncan was 40, clear he was never going to get married again, figured that Jane would look for somebody more serious when the time came—Duncan assumed he was an interim-boyfriend.... You know, just what Jane wanted...an older-aged-man-toy?/! Ha.... not exactly!!! With my silly confused mind ... I said to Paul (yeah, the husband I often talk about), last night.... “I don’t know one woman who wanted an ‘interim’ relationship”..... THINGS TURNED FUNNY, with us.... Paul said, “sure, lots of people - men & women - just want fuck buddies”..... I LAUGHED & LAUGHED.... Of course..... then why didn’t our ‘Mr. Ladies-Hot Stuff’, Duncan just say what he meant...the dipstick! “of course Jane was just a fuck buddy”.....( her monogamous boyfriend).... ...Duncan was the dipstick ...Jane was the pretty, thrifty, new grammar school teacher in town. So I thought.... From the beginning…we know it’s Jane who has the raw deal in their relationship with Hunky-Duncan, who has screwed every female in town and is in an active ongoing communicative/handyman relationship with his ex-wife. The ex-wife, Aggie, has been married for 10 years, but it’s only been five years since she enjoyed her fuck buddy-hunky-Duncan herself. but ex-wife Aggie and Duncan have finally stopped their ex-relationship hanky-panky.... so now when Hunky-Duncan comes over, he really does just mow the lawn and use his tools to repair anything —‘but Aggie’. Enter Luke Armstrong...not Lance Armstrong Take that buster-Duncan dipstick! Luke Armstrong was the perfect marrying man. Jane’s relationships happen quickly. Wedding coming soon.... but not before a string of wedding arrangements to face...dinner with Luke’s parents....and her own exhausting mother .... But as easy as this all sounds.... ...regular people popping in and out of each other‘s houses and beds in the small community town in Boyne City, Michigan not far from Traverse City —(one of the most beautiful spots in United States in my opinion)..... comes a FUN- FUNNY - BITTERSWEET- CRAZY ENJOYABLE NOVEL .... A group of nutty characters- you’ll miss when the novel ends. Nothing is conventional!! So, I ask you? What’s the opposite of comfort food? Well that’s pretty easy… Discomfort food! Oh.... so many great laughs!! And Duncan...? Yep.... lol . . . He still a dipstick! Have fun .... Great timing for a little snazzy entertainment.... wouldn’t you say?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jayme

    The ❤️ Wants what the ❤️ Wants! That is the ONLY way to explain why Jane wants Duncan. He is charming and handsome but also unapologetic about having slept with nearly every woman in Boyne City, Michigan and several in neighboring towns. Oh, and if that weren’t enough to endure, Jane will also have to socialize frequently with his ex-wife Aggie too- and he sees nothing wrong with that either! Well, for me, the first would’ve been intolerable, and red flags would have been waving 🚩 AND, 👩🏼👨🏻👱🏻‍♀️ The ❤️ Wants what the ❤️ Wants! That is the ONLY way to explain why Jane wants Duncan. He is charming and handsome but also unapologetic about having slept with nearly every woman in Boyne City, Michigan and several in neighboring towns. Oh, and if that weren’t enough to endure, Jane will also have to socialize frequently with his ex-wife Aggie too- and he sees nothing wrong with that either! Well, for me, the first would’ve been intolerable, and red flags would have been waving 🚩 AND, 👩🏼👨🏻👱🏻‍♀️ THREE is DEFINITELY a crowd! I would have been MISERABLE living the life she chose, which is probably why I didn’t find it entertaining! But, if you find her unconventional family weirdly wonderful, then you will feel differently! I am so very HAPPY that so many of my Goodreads friends found so much joy from this book! 🥰 I wish I could’ve joined them, but sadly, it just didn’t resonate with me! 🤷🏻‍♀️ A buddy read with DeAnn so be sure to watch for her wonderful review! She may have felt much differently!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    Even though I’ve had my rescue Australian Shepherd dog for four years now, my heart still bursts when I walk him and watch his little ears bouncing as he resolutely chugs along. And it bursts even more - like fully burst-cherry-tomato-pasta bursts - when I think of how shitty his first, pre-rescue year of life was, and how happy he at least seems to be now. Likewise, I felt like my heart was exploding the entire time reading this book from how good it was, and what types of themes it addresses, Even though I’ve had my rescue Australian Shepherd dog for four years now, my heart still bursts when I walk him and watch his little ears bouncing as he resolutely chugs along. And it bursts even more - like fully burst-cherry-tomato-pasta bursts - when I think of how shitty his first, pre-rescue year of life was, and how happy he at least seems to be now. Likewise, I felt like my heart was exploding the entire time reading this book from how good it was, and what types of themes it addresses, and how talented and unique (and funny!) an author Heiny is. Even now, just thinking about it, my inner organs feel like they’re rearranging themselves in an emotionally volatile but ultimately happy polka. This is a book about moments like that that keep us all chugging along through the walk of life, how (as Aldous Huxley and many others have well said), we are not what happens to us; we are what we do with what happens to us. This is a book about the complicated beauty of (IRL, face to face) relationships and of created family, as well as the kind of family that makes you want to stomp your feet and holler (at any age), “I didn’t ask to be born!” It is a book about the wonder and unbeatable pleasures of the day-to-day, and how we need to remember to resolutely live only for those things that make our hearts cherry-tomato burst, and fuck all the rest of it! Heiny is one of my favorite authors - and, as I’ll tell anyone who’ll listen, an author I got to hear at a local book festival, and she is a lovely human; if she were a Great Lake, she’d be Superior. I just feel like she captures interior life - what mine feels like anyway, or at least the interior life of anyone with some very basic sense of humor and humility - better than anyone I’ve read. As an added bonus - I’d no idea of her Michigan connection, but this is where I grew up. And in a time when I, as a transplanted-to-the-East-Coast-er, am often surrounded by people content to glibly dismiss the entire US interior as a flyover zone, she welcomely captures the (it can be savage and breathtaking) beauty of northern Michigan, the qualities and quirks and nuances and humanity that Midwesterners can demonstrate at their very best, and how living in touch with four very distinct, but also often snowy seasons, largely at the mercy of the weather, and surrounded by awe-inspiring reminders of glaciation and geography and time and the relative tiny-ness and fragility of human life can all inspire a sense of necessary community and a kind of personal mindfulness and gratitude in the small things that really matter, long before these things were trends. Five, Giant, Great Lakes-Shaped Stars. Also, one quick note: as a native Michigander, I know our cool geography is unfortunately most misunderstood (seriously, check out the subreddit r/MapsWithoutUP), so I need to clarify. This book is *NOT* set in the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan, but rather in Northern Lower Michigan - the part that looks like a mitten. [Which is also a peninsula - a landmass surrounded mostly by water, which is the first thing drilled into an elementary school Michi-gosling - but the Lower Peninsula is securely saddled to Ohio, which is a lot for any landmass to bear (lol sorry Buckeyes, love you!), whereas the UP is tethered to much less.] Hold out your right hand in front of you, put your fingers tightly together, and stick your thumb out to about 2 o’clock, and with this book we’re roughly talking about the part of the state around the edges of your ring finger between the pinky and middle finger. (This is by far the coolest perk of past or present Michigan residency, to be able to do this.) The UP is the other large part of Michigan, again often omitted from or incorrectly labeled in maps, that is above the entirety of the mitten part and looks kind of like a misshapen, westward-facing sleeping rabbit drawn by a child (this is actually sort of a controversy, what it looks like: the mitten part sets an unbeatably high standard), and does NOT belong to Canada or Wisconsin. (While the UP is also savagely beautiful, like tear your eyes out with a fishhook beautiful, it is also its own whole vast and brave new world - an extremely distinct and different place and culture, worthy of its own awesome novels.) Also: PopSugar 2021 Reading Challenge: A book with the same title as a song. Book Riot 2021 Read Harder Challenge #22: A book set in the Midwest.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kay

    3.5⭐ June is here! I can't think of a better way to welcome summer than to read some romance. I think this book will please many romcom readers, cozy fans, or those who enjoy family drama. This isn't too sweet, I enjoyed it. Early Morning Riser has some unusual, but charming characters. Jane moves to a small town and meets a "Brawny paper towel" handsome woodworker, Duncan. Duncan's not only a hunk, but also easy going and charming. The downside? He's been been with just about every girl in town. 3.5⭐ June is here! I can't think of a better way to welcome summer than to read some romance. I think this book will please many romcom readers, cozy fans, or those who enjoy family drama. This isn't too sweet, I enjoyed it. Early Morning Riser has some unusual, but charming characters. Jane moves to a small town and meets a "Brawny paper towel" handsome woodworker, Duncan. Duncan's not only a hunk, but also easy going and charming. The downside? He's been been with just about every girl in town. Once again, small town. This was a fun and an "easy-listen" story. I did find the story dragged a notch after the second half. But overall fun, with laughs at the right places. Love and family.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    I bought into the review hype and so I only have myself to blame. This was the most dull book about small life living people. If the characters were developed and felt like they had any depth, maybe it could be something worth reading. If the story included the big, messy bits instead of skipping ahead so the character could say “well that happened”, then it would begin to feel interesting. If the story was not set up in such simple, obvious ways, perhaps I would not think it was so lazy. The dr I bought into the review hype and so I only have myself to blame. This was the most dull book about small life living people. If the characters were developed and felt like they had any depth, maybe it could be something worth reading. If the story included the big, messy bits instead of skipping ahead so the character could say “well that happened”, then it would begin to feel interesting. If the story was not set up in such simple, obvious ways, perhaps I would not think it was so lazy. The drama was entirely removed from any of the “plot” points. This is milquetoast. I know we are all fried and exhausted and experiencing stress in these pandemic times, but seriously.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I loved Heiny's "Standard Deviations" and had high hopes for this one - but unfortunately it didn't gel for me. I liked the way Jane's life was marked by a collection of small moments and especially appreciated the understanding and warmth shown by all the characters to Jimmy. But I found the lighthearted tone more flippant than amusing and felt that Heiny just skimmed the surface of the characters. In fact, Jane and Duncan felt vacuous to me - like caricatures of real people. I loved Heiny's "Standard Deviations" and had high hopes for this one - but unfortunately it didn't gel for me. I liked the way Jane's life was marked by a collection of small moments and especially appreciated the understanding and warmth shown by all the characters to Jimmy. But I found the lighthearted tone more flippant than amusing and felt that Heiny just skimmed the surface of the characters. In fact, Jane and Duncan felt vacuous to me - like caricatures of real people.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)

    Wonderfully and hysterically written! RTC to come!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    4.5 stars. The whole time I was reading this book I kept thinking about what a little marvel it is. And I know it is Heiny's specialty, but still. She doesn't really follow any of the rules about how to make a novel draw the reader in and move them along just so. For the first third or so not much even happens. And outside of one large turning point part way through, not much else happens. And yet! I wanted to ditch all my obligations to read this book all day. Heiny is just the kind of writer I 4.5 stars. The whole time I was reading this book I kept thinking about what a little marvel it is. And I know it is Heiny's specialty, but still. She doesn't really follow any of the rules about how to make a novel draw the reader in and move them along just so. For the first third or so not much even happens. And outside of one large turning point part way through, not much else happens. And yet! I wanted to ditch all my obligations to read this book all day. Heiny is just the kind of writer I like, she isn't too fussy but she has a deep emotional wisdom that you get to partake of all throughout the book. Jane makes one very understandable mistake right away: she falls in love with Duncan. She is new to their small town and he is gorgeous with a sweet and sunny disposition, so you cannot blame her. Except Duncan has slept with every woman in town and the surrounding counties to boot. And if he seems like an obviously bad bet at the beginning of the book, it does not stay that way. Not because Duncan changes at all, he is a constant. It's Jane who changes, and she spends the book wondering what she wants. This is a small town book populated with quirky characters. Jane is not quirky and she often chides herself for unkind thoughts while she observes others, though outwardly she is reliable and caring for the friendships she finds herself in over the years. Personally I think Jane does not give herself enough credit, I would not be inviting my friend who always ends evenings pulling out her mandolin and singing, nor would I enjoy spending so much time with my boyfriend's ex-wife. Jane can turn on a dime from loving her friends (or Duncan or her mother) to needing them to immediately leave her presence, which was one of the most relatable things about her. Spending time in Jane's head felt a lot like home to me. Jane is also a second grade teacher and basically every scene with her students was one where I laughed out loud. While this is often a sad book, it is more often a funny book and I laughed a lot. (I also cried. Two for one.) One important part of the plot is Jimmy, Duncan's "assistant," who has an unidentified cognitive or developmental delay. They are in the kind of small town where everyone knows Jimmy and does a bit of looking out for Jimmy. But we do not live in a world that is set up for people like Jimmy to be adequately cared for. And everyone chipping in is far from an effective system for an adult who lacks the capacity to fully care for himself. How Jimmy is involved in Jane's life changes over the course of the book, but I appreciated how the book viewed him as a full character--Jane will sometimes get frustrated with him just as she will with everyone else--but not having him as a plot device or a person who stays in the background of the story until needed. Jimmy is all over it, and it felt like a solid portrayal of disability, specifically adult disability that we don't get to see very often. The thing that is very hard about this book if you are a person like me is that Jane just does not talk to Duncan about the things that she should. She has her reasons (she is terrified of what Duncan will say) but this is not a book where Jane and Duncan are able to build themselves a better relationship thanks to good communication. It is a book where almost no communication between them takes place. If you, like me, are guilty of living most of your romantic relationships in your own head rather than spoken out loud between you and your partner, this will all feel eerily familiar, and I can attest to its accuracy. I would just like to read a million Katherine Heiny books that are set deep in the minds of a character, where you grow to feel deeply connected to and invested in them. It was truly a lovely experience.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Anni

    The perfect antidote to a miserable year and non-festive Christmas season ! I was overjoyed to discover that this novel of small town life and family relationships is just as delightfully entertaining as Heiny’s first novel ‘Standard Deviation’. Her genius at creating odd-ball, lovable, yet believable characters is only matched by the great Anne Tyler - but Heiny creates more situation comedy with laughs and striking behavioural observations on every page. I could have highlighted most of the nove The perfect antidote to a miserable year and non-festive Christmas season ! I was overjoyed to discover that this novel of small town life and family relationships is just as delightfully entertaining as Heiny’s first novel ‘Standard Deviation’. Her genius at creating odd-ball, lovable, yet believable characters is only matched by the great Anne Tyler - but Heiny creates more situation comedy with laughs and striking behavioural observations on every page. I could have highlighted most of the novel! Highly recommended. Many thanks go to the publisher for the ARC via NetGalley.

  15. 4 out of 5

    DeAnn

    3.5 Michigan stars This one is focused on Jane, a second-grade teacher, and her life in small town Michigan. She falls in love quickly with Duncan, but then discovers that he has been involved with just about every woman in town. He’s a woodworker who finishes his work painfully slowly, hiding from customers because he hasn’t finished their orders (sometimes for years!). Duncan’s ex-wife is still a big part of his life and that causes Jane no end of discomfort. There’s also Jimmy, Duncan’s store h 3.5 Michigan stars This one is focused on Jane, a second-grade teacher, and her life in small town Michigan. She falls in love quickly with Duncan, but then discovers that he has been involved with just about every woman in town. He’s a woodworker who finishes his work painfully slowly, hiding from customers because he hasn’t finished their orders (sometimes for years!). Duncan’s ex-wife is still a big part of his life and that causes Jane no end of discomfort. There’s also Jimmy, Duncan’s store helper, and he becomes a big part of Jane’s life too. There are some funny moments with Jane’s school classes and field trips and some eccentric characters in town. This was an enjoyable read, but I just didn’t get drawn into the characters as much as I would have liked. I wanted the characters to be developed a bit more so that I understood their motivations more. I know some other readers loved this one, so maybe it was just my frame of mind with this one. This made for an excellent buddy read with Jayme, be sure to read her review of this one. And thanks to my local library for the copy to read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bianca

    3.5 In many ways, this was a very Tyler-esque novel - it is about ordinary people, living ordinary lives in a small town in Michigan. We follow the life of twenty-six-year-old, Jane, who moved to Boyne City to be a second-grade teacher. She starts a relationship with forty-two year old, divorced carpenter and odd-jobs man, Duncan. Duncan was quite the ladies' man. The relationship is going smoothly until Jane realises that it wasn't going anywhere, as Duncan wasn't the marrying (again) kind of man 3.5 In many ways, this was a very Tyler-esque novel - it is about ordinary people, living ordinary lives in a small town in Michigan. We follow the life of twenty-six-year-old, Jane, who moved to Boyne City to be a second-grade teacher. She starts a relationship with forty-two year old, divorced carpenter and odd-jobs man, Duncan. Duncan was quite the ladies' man. The relationship is going smoothly until Jane realises that it wasn't going anywhere, as Duncan wasn't the marrying (again) kind of man. A car accident and a few other happenings bring Jane and Duncan together again, and his ex-wife and her husband. Heiny did a good job showing the ups and downs of life, the absurd, the mundane, the boredom of raising small children, occasionally interspersed by levity, cuteness, and pleasant surprises. I'm bummed out I didn't love this more. It's got all the ingredients that I usually appreciate in a novel, but I never fully got invested in what happened to the characters.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dianne

    I loved this - I just adore Heiny’s writing and her storytelling chops. All of these people felt so real to me. It’s a lovely and upbeat character-driven novel - highly recommend. Also, Heiny’s Standard Deviation is a similar winner. More, please! I loved this - I just adore Heiny’s writing and her storytelling chops. All of these people felt so real to me. It’s a lovely and upbeat character-driven novel - highly recommend. Also, Heiny’s Standard Deviation is a similar winner. More, please!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Jackson

    Honestly I got to this sentence on page eleven and wow, that’s a big no for me. “This was not the night Jane got drunk enough to ask Frieda if it was true she hadn’t ever had sex with anyone, even a drunk migrant worker, but Jane felt strongly that such a night was in her future.” Uh, even a drunk migrant worker what now?! Very much no thank you. And then we get the part with the mentally retarded character? Confusing candy and EATING glass? What on actual earth NOPE. And then this! OH WOW: “Jane Honestly I got to this sentence on page eleven and wow, that’s a big no for me. “This was not the night Jane got drunk enough to ask Frieda if it was true she hadn’t ever had sex with anyone, even a drunk migrant worker, but Jane felt strongly that such a night was in her future.” Uh, even a drunk migrant worker what now?! Very much no thank you. And then we get the part with the mentally retarded character? Confusing candy and EATING glass? What on actual earth NOPE. And then this! OH WOW: “Jane looked more closely at the woman and saw that it wasn’t accurate to say she was large. She had a wide face, which automatically made you assume she had a wide body, too, but in fact her figure was exceptional,” WELL THANK GOD SHES NOT WIDE EVERYONE KNOWS A WIDE BODY ISNT EXCEPTIONAL BUT SHE ISNT WIDE BODIED FRIENDS HER TRICKY WIDE FACE JUST TRICKED US. Not a large body! Not a wide body! Therefore! An exceptional body. Got it. Just to be clear: in the Venn Diagram of Body Judging, wide/large and exceptional DO NOT INTERSECT. EVEN A DRUNK MIGRANT WORKER. What. On. Earth. I would light a kindle on fire if I could.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Trish (concerningnovels)

    4.5 stars, rounded up. If you love character-driven novels, like me, I implore you to check out Katherine Heiny’s books. She is a master of showing real, multifaceted, complex people going through intimate, authentic emotions. Okay, now let’s talk about her new release, Early Morning Riser. Jane is the newest resident of small town Boyne City, Michigan. She’s in her late twenties, a second grade teacher. She’s quiet, friendly, still trying to fit in. She meets Duncan when she locks herself out o 4.5 stars, rounded up. If you love character-driven novels, like me, I implore you to check out Katherine Heiny’s books. She is a master of showing real, multifaceted, complex people going through intimate, authentic emotions. Okay, now let’s talk about her new release, Early Morning Riser. Jane is the newest resident of small town Boyne City, Michigan. She’s in her late twenties, a second grade teacher. She’s quiet, friendly, still trying to fit in. She meets Duncan when she locks herself out of her new house and he heroically manages to get her back inside. To say thank you, Jane invites him to stay for dinner. He does, they have sex, Jane falls in love - oh but wait - did you think this was a love story? Did I forget to mention that Duncan has an ex-wife named Aggie who still relies on Duncan to mow her lawn in the summer and plow her snowy driveway in the winter? Oh and ever since their divorce Duncan has made it his mission to be the town womanizer, a real modern Lothario if you will. Oh and he never wants to get married again. Do you think he should’ve mentioned that before or after Jane (and I) caught feelings for him? I know, I know the book starts out with a meet-cute but I’m here to tell you that it’s not that kind of love story. It’s a better one. This is a found family story. In Boyne City, every person Jane meets is a CHARACTER. Duncan, Aggie, Gary, Freida, Jimmy, and Jane’s mom all live rent-free in my brain now because what an interesting array of personalities! I loved seeing Jane’s relationship with each of the townspeople grow and change over the years. The way this story is written, you get detailed snippets of Jane’s life in the moment and I loved it so much. Katherine Heiny is an outstanding writer of people. She shows you who they are, doesn’t tell you. It’s incredible. I’m officially a loyal fan who will follow, what I expect to be, her long, prolific career. For more bookish photos, reviews and updates follow me on instagram @concerningnovels.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lani

    DNF at 23%. I can't take it anymore, I am so bored. Unlikeable characters and does anything ever happen? I don't want to waste any more time trying to find out. DNF at 23%. I can't take it anymore, I am so bored. Unlikeable characters and does anything ever happen? I don't want to waste any more time trying to find out.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jaclyn

    Nobody makes me fall in love with her characters as hard as Katherine Heiny. She brings them all to messy glorious life and reveals those tiny moments in life that make it all worthwhile. Here she is again exploring modern marriage but in a way only Heiny could. I adored every moment.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Ready for a light-hearted tale with quirky characters? Enjoy the delightful 26-year-old Jane who falls for Duncan, a man in his early forties who loves women. And women seem to love him—including Jane. How does this charming 2nd grade teacher compete with Duncan’s beautiful ex-wife Aggie, or all of his other former paramours in the small town of Boyne City (located in the northern part of Michigan’s lower peninsula). Jane also has to deal with her mother who blurts out unfiltered comments at the Ready for a light-hearted tale with quirky characters? Enjoy the delightful 26-year-old Jane who falls for Duncan, a man in his early forties who loves women. And women seem to love him—including Jane. How does this charming 2nd grade teacher compete with Duncan’s beautiful ex-wife Aggie, or all of his other former paramours in the small town of Boyne City (located in the northern part of Michigan’s lower peninsula). Jane also has to deal with her mother who blurts out unfiltered comments at the most inopportune moments, her mandolin-playing best friend Frieda, and learning-disabled Jimmy. Enjoy how Jane deals with her 2nd grade students that have their own distinctive personalities. [Clearly, we don’t pay our teachers enough!]

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lynne

    I should have loved this book! Main character is an elementary school teacher in a small town... I AM an elementary school teacher in a small town! NONE of the events that took place in the classroom were realistic to today’s classroom at least NOT where I teach... Do you really think we could have a bartender come in on career day and demonstrate how to make a mix drink then give it to a teacher ???? At least the bartender had the kids make nonalcoholic drinks for themselves... Even if I could I should have loved this book! Main character is an elementary school teacher in a small town... I AM an elementary school teacher in a small town! NONE of the events that took place in the classroom were realistic to today’s classroom at least NOT where I teach... Do you really think we could have a bartender come in on career day and demonstrate how to make a mix drink then give it to a teacher ???? At least the bartender had the kids make nonalcoholic drinks for themselves... Even if I could let all the school scenes go this was just sort of boring... I did like the Jimmy character but then Gary was very similar to him... shared many of the same character traits. The author couldn’t come up with other traits for Gary? At least it was a quick read ..and I did finish it

  24. 4 out of 5

    Greg Zimmerman

    4.5 If Richard Russo and Sarah Silverman had a book baby, it would look something like this charming, hilarious tale of small town Midwestern life. But more to the point, this novel is about how we find happiness, no matter what hand we're dealt in life. Heiny writes, "Odd how rainbows could go on appearing when there was so much evil in the world that Jane could barely comprehend it." But they do. And similarly, despite all odds, despite unspeakable tragedies, despite hurdles and heartbreak, we 4.5 If Richard Russo and Sarah Silverman had a book baby, it would look something like this charming, hilarious tale of small town Midwestern life. But more to the point, this novel is about how we find happiness, no matter what hand we're dealt in life. Heiny writes, "Odd how rainbows could go on appearing when there was so much evil in the world that Jane could barely comprehend it." But they do. And similarly, despite all odds, despite unspeakable tragedies, despite hurdles and heartbreak, we do figure out how to be happy. If we're lucky. Really, this is just a sweet, often laugh-out-loud story that just makes you feel glad to be a reader. Loved it!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mary Lins

    I’m not going to mince words here: I loved “Early Morning Riser” so much that when I finished I almost turned back to the first page and started over. I would have, too, if I didn’t have commitments to review other books right now. How do I love thee, Katherine Heiny, let me count the ways! Your writing is wonderfully evocative, so full of humanity, brilliantly witty, compelling, and IMMEDIATELY captivating because your characters are so perfect. Would it live up to “Standard Deviation” which I a I’m not going to mince words here: I loved “Early Morning Riser” so much that when I finished I almost turned back to the first page and started over. I would have, too, if I didn’t have commitments to review other books right now. How do I love thee, Katherine Heiny, let me count the ways! Your writing is wonderfully evocative, so full of humanity, brilliantly witty, compelling, and IMMEDIATELY captivating because your characters are so perfect. Would it live up to “Standard Deviation” which I adore and have read multiple times? Well, I’m happy to report that I knew it would after just the first page. I DEVOURED it like I was starving and it was my favorite meal (Mexican Food), even though I wanted to savor it! (I’ll savor it when I read it again.) Heiny again creates characters that are quirky, funny, complex, deep, and totally unforgettable. This is the story of second-grade teacher, Jane, whom at the start has just moved to a small town in Michigan (where the author happens to live). What I love about Heiny’s stories is that just when you think it’s going one way, she zags instead of zigs and you are in an unexpected place – just like in real life! This happens with Jane and you will NOT be able to stop reading because you will be dying to know what will happen next! I recommend avoiding reading anything about the plot of this novel; just jump in with glee, as I did! All you need to know is that it’s full of great characters (Duncan! Jimmie! Jane’s mom! All the second graders!) and it presents Jane’s life and loves in a beautifully poignant, hopeful, and thoroughly satisfying way. Not every writer can truly capture children; Heiny does does does! What a pleasure. Note to Anne Tyler fans (as I am): Heiny’s characters are quirky and wonderfully flawed as Tyler’s are; the difference is that Heiny’s characters have sex [I write with a smile] there's a reason there is a bed on the cover.

  26. 4 out of 5

    switterbug (Betsey)

    A friend recommended this book for its quirky story and characters--in fact, it is a delightfully absorbing and very Anne Tyler-esque story style. People in Heiny’s story are stubbornly themselves, at times to a fault, and at other times to correct that fault. Even if guilt was a motivating impulse for a life-changing choice, more poignant is what nestles underneath the guilt--the heart. Everyone in Heiny’s story evolves, even secondary characters. If you’ve ever experienced or known an extended A friend recommended this book for its quirky story and characters--in fact, it is a delightfully absorbing and very Anne Tyler-esque story style. People in Heiny’s story are stubbornly themselves, at times to a fault, and at other times to correct that fault. Even if guilt was a motivating impulse for a life-changing choice, more poignant is what nestles underneath the guilt--the heart. Everyone in Heiny’s story evolves, even secondary characters. If you’ve ever experienced or known an extended family or modern family household, here you are. The author’s droll wit and dusky drama keep us tilted--and Jane and Duncan rival the best of comedically paired romantic partners. Reckless fools for love. Jane has a little bit of Annie Hall in her, with her love of thrift store furniture and clothing, and Duncan possesses the irresistible Burt Reynolds love-‘em-and-leave-‘em charm, but he will gladly go fix anyone’s fence or sink like a gentleman handyman, and is only glad to do so. But, at his woodworking shop, he has pieces there for months overdue to his inaction and totally laid-back lifestyle. Allergic to marriage, too. A rake, a lover, and a unicorn. There are a couple of characters on the spectrum, like Jimmy, who is likely IDD, but is easy to please, genuine, and lovable. He works at Duncan’s shop—Duncan keeps him employed--and lives with his mother. Duncan’s ex-wife, Aggie, is annoying and intrusive (but means well most of the time), Aggie, who still maintains contact and cooks like James Beardsley or Julia Child, has a flat affect and inattentive husband who Aggie mothers. Freida, Jane’s best friend, goes nowhere without her mandolin and is fierce about music, plays everywhere she goes. The novel stretches 17 years, but not like a saga or epic. Just a quiet story in Boyne City, Michigan. Ordinary people, until they mean something to you. Jane teaches second grade, and if I forget much of the novel in the future, I’ll always remember those rug rats, with all their little big personalities. A book for any season and every mood. “You gave it to him. You carved out a crucial little part of yourself, and you not only gave it to him, you begged him to take it…you were sure at that moment that you would always have an endless supply…because you were one of the lucky ones. So you gave it to him. You did it--you did--you stupid, reckless fool.” 4.5 rounded up

  27. 4 out of 5

    Marcy Dermansky

    I did not want this book to end. I love the way that Katherine Heiny writes. There are so many jokes slipped into every paragraph but they aren't even jokes. It's the way she thinks and slips in into the character's heads. Jane, Duncan, Aggie, Jimmy, the kids, they all seem like real people. And when Jane was happy, I was happy, too. I did not want this book to end. I love the way that Katherine Heiny writes. There are so many jokes slipped into every paragraph but they aren't even jokes. It's the way she thinks and slips in into the character's heads. Jane, Duncan, Aggie, Jimmy, the kids, they all seem like real people. And when Jane was happy, I was happy, too.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I really loved her book of short stories, but this was straight cartoon characters. Has anyone like Gary ever existed? I don't think so. And Freida with her mandolin...sigh. And were we supposed to like Duncan? Because I did not. I really loved her book of short stories, but this was straight cartoon characters. Has anyone like Gary ever existed? I don't think so. And Freida with her mandolin...sigh. And were we supposed to like Duncan? Because I did not.

  29. 4 out of 5

    T. Rosado

    5 Stars! A 2021 Top Read! I’m giving this 5 stars for how much I was surprised by this novel and how much I ended up loving it. I'll admit, the first few chapters had me skimming some additional reviews for encouragement to stay the path. Once I decided to commit, I was taken for an adventure. Not an action-packed ride, but a highly satisfying journey. At first glance, Early Morning Riser merely ambles along, depicting Jane's world after she moves to Boyne City and meets the people that will entan 5 Stars! A 2021 Top Read! I’m giving this 5 stars for how much I was surprised by this novel and how much I ended up loving it. I'll admit, the first few chapters had me skimming some additional reviews for encouragement to stay the path. Once I decided to commit, I was taken for an adventure. Not an action-packed ride, but a highly satisfying journey. At first glance, Early Morning Riser merely ambles along, depicting Jane's world after she moves to Boyne City and meets the people that will entangle themselves into her life and essentially remain there for the duration. Whether she wants them or not. There's a plot and a message, but they're subtle and nuanced, allowing the reader to become one of the slowly entangled. The story was full of small, but relevant moments. Not thrilling or awe-inducing in the normal sense, but moments that were relatable and had me feeling fond. Even when experiencing the few sad or frustrating instances, I still felt an all-encompassing joy being in this world. It was also full of wit and laugh out loud humor, but the author managed to insert flashes of deeper poignancy that wrapped me up in it’s tenderness and humanity. I’ll end this by saying again, it was a lovely surprise. If not all the details, I will at least remember how the story and characters made me feel.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jultri

    4.5/5. A most unusual story. Let me spare those of you looking for a nice CR from needless disappointment. This is not a romance. I was expecting it to be and so I was left rather perplexed initially, wondering where this story was heading. Fortunately, I enjoyed the writing and the characterisations so much, I just decided to sit back and enjoy the ride wherever it was taking me, and what a charming path it traversed as it introduced us to the heroine and a string of vividly portrayed supportin 4.5/5. A most unusual story. Let me spare those of you looking for a nice CR from needless disappointment. This is not a romance. I was expecting it to be and so I was left rather perplexed initially, wondering where this story was heading. Fortunately, I enjoyed the writing and the characterisations so much, I just decided to sit back and enjoy the ride wherever it was taking me, and what a charming path it traversed as it introduced us to the heroine and a string of vividly portrayed supporting characters and then followed these people through two decades of life, love and loss. And joy too, many joyful moments interspersed in between the little heart-tugs. Jane was heroine of the story but Jimmy was it's beating heart; Jimmy of the limited intellect but boundless capacity for love. He alone was the focus of the book's most emotionally potent moments. The wonderfully humorous writing is reminiscent of Fredrik Backman, rich in details and characterisations and capable of activating the full range of human emotions. I found myself slowly warming up to every character, even the undeserving lotharian/man-whore Duncan, his over-bearing ex-wife and her clueless husband. The pacing slowed down a bit just past half-way mark, but otherwise it was a sheer joy to listen to. This author is a revelation. Thanks, T, for making me aware of this book and the author.

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