Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny

Katherine Heiny’s novel doesn’t fit into a neat box. It starts out as a rom com; it’s a fairly predictable pairing  of two attractive, charming people, surrounded by their eccentric friends.

Jane and Duncan meet, have a relationship of sorts, and break up, which isn’t fatal to HEA (Happily Ever After). However, the book begins to take a darker, messier turn. This is when it really starts to get unpredictable and  much more interesting.  Jane, a grade school teacher in a small Michigan town, gets some of what she wanted but not necessarily in the way she wanted.

A highlight is Heiny’s skill in capturing kids and adults with  delightfully brief character sketches or with  telling anecdotes.  I looked forward to the work life passages, and the insight into the second- grade mind. Boyne City is populated with  quirky residents and Heiny has fun with the dynamics of rural life.

It turns out that, perhaps, the most pivotal relationship of Jane’s life is with Jimmy Jellico. He’s a sweet and naive man who nominally works for Duncan in his workshop.  Jimmy has always had difficulty understanding how to navigate in the world, and hasn’t mastered even the most basic of adulting skills. Jane becomes more and more involved in Jimmy’s daily life, and despairs that he’ll ever find a love of his own. Jane’s friends, family and co-workers are very imperfect, as is Jane, but they evolve and create a fascinating community.

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