A comic debut novel about a second marriage. Introverted, middle-aged Graham has been married for 12 years to his talkative, eccentric, younger second wife Audra, and he’s beginning to wonder whether they’re really suited for each other.
...[a] charming debut novel ... Heiny crafts indelible scenes, such as the one of drunken parents at a Cub Scouts cocktail party — no appetizers, plenty of Jell-O shots — that Audra and Graham attend in the hopes of landing Matthew play dates. Or the exquisite horror of the school’s United Nations Day, which Audra approaches with dread equal to the Battle of the Somme ... Readers searching for a blissful summer novel, a polished delight, look no further.
Standard Deviation, Katherine Heiny’s first novel, is about a marriage, and, as with marriage, it is easier to catalog this novel’s individual sly charms than it is to nail down the essential, quicksilver thing that makes it such a success ... Heiny finds a wonderful specificity in archetypes. Audra and Graham’s apartment is a revolving door of down-on-their-luck houseguests ... The book has a kind of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus feel, but its confidence, and the texture of the small world it creates, keep it from feeling parodic, as do the various “deviations” from the archetypes Heiny explores. Nor is it completely lighthearted, despite its comic tenor ... Like Graham, the novel gestures at darker corridors, mostly choosing to leave them untraveled. But as with any marriage, it’s better to take this novel just exactly as it is, rather than nitpick all the things that it’s not.
This book is about a marriage under stress — though Heiny keeps it bubbly, evoking the smart, stylish wit of Laurie Colwin, Nora Ephron, and Maria Semple ... Heiny's novel dishes up amusing riffs on marriage, misfits, and finicky eaters, plus some wonderfully on-target descriptions ... Standard Deviation is fun, but like Audra, it goes on too long and starts to wear you down. By piling on too many episodes, it loses its delightful breeziness. Which is a shame, because Heiny clearly has what it takes to join the elite coterie of witty social satirists who turn out smart, lively charmers. Stay tuned.