I went into Katherine Heiny’s Early Morning Riser knowing that it had gotten a mixed reception when it came out earlier this summer. Not really a surprise – I myself have had mixed success with Heiny’s earlier books. I loved her collection of stories, Single, Carefree, Mellow, which I found entertaining and very perceptive about relationships. I wasn’t as crazy about her second book, Standard Deviation, which had some over-the-top characters and implausible pairings and just didn’t work for me. So I approached Early Morning Riser with a bit of trepidation. I am happy to say, though, that I liked it. I can appreciate why others didn’t love it, but I enjoyed it.
Why I picked it up: I really liked Single, Carefree, Mellow (reviewed here).
Early Morning Riser is about a woman named Jane who moves to a small town in Michigan and the life she builds there. Early on, she gets involved with a confirmed bachelor named Duncan who has slept with half the women in town. Although the relationship is short, circumstances bring them back into each other’s lives later. Early Morning Riser explores life in a small town where everyone knows your history, and the process of building a community with people who aren’t your family. Each chapter jumps ahead a few years, and you catch up with Jane and where her life has progressed. It’s a character-driven book with some pretty quirky people, and while some of them were sort of ridiculous, the others grew on me over time. There are a lot of poignant moments throughout, some quite bittersweet. In the end, Jane’s life didn’t necessarily turn out exactly how she would have chosen, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t happy or fulfilling.
I didn’t find Early Morning Riser to be laugh-out-loud funny, nor was it sharp and edgy like Single, Carefree, Mellow. It had its own charms, and I am glad I read it.
I listened to most of Early Morning Riser on audio before I left for vacation. It was good! The narrator, Kate Rudd, was kind of no-nonsense, which imparted that quality to Jane. (Maybe I would have felt differently about Jane with a different narrator?) The audiobook kept my attention and I was happy to get back to it when I got in the car or headed out for a walk.
Early Morning Riser was the 40th book of 2021.