Friday, May 14, 2021

Early Morning Riser, by Katherine Heiny: Charming, Hilarious Tale of Midwestern Life

If Richard Russo and Sarah Silverman had a book baby, it might look something like Katherine Heiny's charming, hilarious tale of small town Midwestern life, Early Morning Riser

It's almost too easy (lazy?) to compare this novel to Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio...but it definitely has that feel (there's even a character here named Willard!). A cast of goofy, quirky, sweet characters in the small town of Boyne City, Michigan, are all up in each other's business. They're mostly friendly, sometimes passive aggressive, but they always help each other, especially when tragedy strikes. 

Jane, our protagonist, moves to Boyne City as a young woman to teach second grade. She's really the only "normal" person in this tale. She meets Duncan — the town's manslut, who has slept with nearly every eligible woman in a three-county radius — and naturally begins dating him. She thinks he looks the Brawny Paper Towel Man, which is hilarious in itself — the small-town Midwestern ideal of masculinity. 

The novel is basically about Jane's life — her relationship with Duncan, her horrendous (though often laugh-out-loud funny) mother, and all the other people in this small town, including Jimmy, a developmentally disabled man who everyone in the town works together to take care of. Jimmy is the heart and soul of this novel. 

In total. 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..." 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. 

In total, this is just a sweet, often laugh-out-loud story that just makes you feel glad to be a reader. Loved it!

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