Book of the Month: Early Morning Riser By Katherine Heiny

When I first opened this book, and on the first page, I saw "2002", I was like uh oh. Here we go with all the time travel authors take us on. It turns out this was quite the linear progression and was incredibly easy to follow. That's not all I loved about the book of this month so let's get into it. The book of this month is Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny. It's a heartwarming, funny, poignant book about love, unconventional family, happiness, friendship, and community. 

The main protagonist, Jane, a school teacher, meets and falls in love with Duncan quite easily. The great thing is Duncan is charming, good-natured, and handsome. But the problem also is Duncan is charming, good-natured, and handsome because if it moves and has the XX chromosomes, then you can bet Duncan has slept with it. Interestingly, their love (or lack thereof, you'd have to read to find out) isn't quite the center of the book. Instead, when Jane's life changes with one terrible car crash, we see how her life is permanently intertwined with others' in their small town, Boyne City, Michigan.  If you are put off because you think this is a rom-com, just hold on a second. It really isn't. Or at least, I wouldn't quite describe it as that at all, like in any sense. It is, in a lot of ways, about love though.

The most common words that describe this book are heartwarming, endearing, FUNNY, charming, bighearted, joyful. And those words are exactly right. This book is so funny that I literally laughed out loud on so many occasions. Do you know how hard it is to accomplish that in writing? The dialogue is witty and natural, and you always feel like you can see it happening. It's a type of book that you take your time to savor because you don't want to miss any part, and my goodness, you never want it to end! There are endless quirky characters, real-life situations portrayed in very authentic ways, and an ability to draw out both of these in a way that lures you in from the moment you pick it up until you drop it. 

As the book is broken into seven parts over the years from 2002 to 2019, we get to dive into Jane's life as an elementary school teacher, her innermost thoughts, and everything else. You will want to smack some characters, but you will also want to wrap some others in a warm embrace. 

An important lesson this book teaches is that human beings are complex and life itself is complex, but this doesn't have to be the end of our happiness. Our happiness, our joy can be in the mundane and in the ordinary. And that's a lesson we all need to hear every now and then.

One thing I didn't quite like about it: two characters or maybe even three are eerily alike that I felt like the author could have done a much better job at distinguishing them. I'm talking of Duncan, Gary, and a little bit of Jimmy too. The male characters just weren't distinct.  Or let's put it another way: the male characters just don't have as much oomph to stand alone. However, the female characters were so well crafted and endowed with such unique traits that they are very believable. Perhaps then, one could attribute the earlier problem [of the male characters] to the fact that Jane drives the entire story. Everything we learn is directly from her point of view and filtered through her and and no other way. Because of this, although we get such vivid description of the aforementioned male characters, it feels very surface level too.  

In this book, there is no climax, no sudden drama, no huge twists and turns, and it follows almost exactly the same pace all along. Some will hate this, but I promise it does not ruin the novel. And come to think of it, isn't that life? Here is the thing that makes this book truly exceptional: if you can take the mundane and write it to feel so exquisite and extraordinary, then you are an excellent writer. Heiny IS an excellent writer. If you must absolutely have drama, twists, suspense, then maybe this is not a book for you. 

There is one BIG thing that makes me almost scream. This book evokes a lot of emotions from you.  When I was almost done with reading it, I suddenly realized I was unusually not taking down any notes (for a book so good). I just didn't know what part to record. Not to mention, you never want to put this book down and when you're done, you miss it a lot. It's joyful. It's a story about humanity and the way we show up for one another, without even making a fuss of it or making a show of it; just doing so, quite effortlessly. If there weren't so many books to read, I can see myself just starting this all over. It is that good a book, that phenomenal a book, and in so many ways, that beautiful a book.  Because of this book, I am already so drawn to read more of Katherine Heiny's books.

I hope you read this and enjoy it, and if you do, let me know.



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