I had high hopes for Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny after reading her collection of short stories, Single, Carefree, Mellow. I loved those stories for their snarky humor and incisive honesty about relationships. Standard Deviation is a novel, and I was excited to read it based on its synopsis: Graham, a man in his 50s, is torn between lingering feelings about his restrained ex-wife, Elspeth, and his larger-than-life current wife, Audra.

Sadly, I was disappointed by Standard Deviation. Heiny is as snarky and observant in this book as she was in her novels, but the underlying tension here just didn’t work for me. First, Audra is basically a caricature and incredibly annoying. I had a hard time seeing how Graham could be so besotted. The whole subplot of Audra’s infidelity was never really resolved, which also seemed unrealistic to me. Graham didn’t want to lose her, but he also didn’t seem the type to just sweep it under the rug. His relationship with Elspeth was odd, to say the least, and she too didn’t seem the type to hang out with her ex-husband and his current wife as much as she did, notwithstanding her coldness and snark.

And not too much happens in the book either. There is a lot of day-to-day commentary about Audra and Graham’s lives in New York City, as well as the challenges of parenting a son with Asperger’s. Much of that commentary is funny – some of it even brilliant – but without the propulsion of a compelling plot to get me through, reading Standard Deviation was a bit of a slog. I was happy to be done.

If you want to try Katherine Heiny, check out Single, Carefree, Mellow first. This one didn’t do it for me.


    July 4, 2017 - 7:30 am | Permalink

    Despite the three stars, I still want to read this !!

    • gayle
      July 5, 2017 - 12:12 am | Permalink

      I put it in the Little Free Library – should have saved it for you!

  • Colleen
    July 4, 2017 - 10:14 pm | Permalink

    I loved it! It’s true that nothing really happens, but Heiny’s writing is so compelling and funny! It’s the first time I’ve read anything by her but I have already ordered her first short story collection based on how much I admired her writing.

    • gayle
      July 5, 2017 - 12:12 am | Permalink

      Interesting! I really think you’ll love her short stories. She is very funny. I just couldn’t stand Audra.

  • July 10, 2017 - 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Somehow this one really worked for me whereas I did not like her short stories as much. That may be because I’m not a fan of short stories.

    As for annoying Audra- yes! And yet, I thought it was her frothiness that drew Graham in and kept him there- she counterbalanced his introversion. I would have shanked her, but that’s just me.

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