Jo’s Pick of the Week: Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny

Every time I read a new book, I ask myself whether it will make the annual Staff Favorites booklets I put together at the end of the year. The newest gem I just finished will definitely make the cut.

Early Morning Riser’s charming story is driven by its multiple quirky characters. The cheerful protagonist, Jane, moves to a small, upper Michigan town to start a new job as a second-grade teacher. One night, when she locks herself out of her house, she meets the handsome, charming Duncan, who works as a locksmith and woodworker. She is swept away by his easy-going personality and good looks.

Jane eventually finds out that Duncan’s wiles have worked on dozens of other women – it seems like he has had relationships with almost all the eligible females in town and even towns beyond. He always is loyal to the woman he is with, and tells Jane that once his partner is fed up with him, he moves on. He is not the marrying kind – he had been married once to Aggie, and that was enough. No hard feelings though – he still mows Aggie’s grass and plows her snow.

The amiable Jane soon finds her life filled with all kinds of people who are sometimes annoying, and sometimes delightful. The know-it-all Aggie is an opinionated force to be reckoned with who enjoys telling people what to do, especially her needy husband Gary.

Jane meets her future best friend, Freida, the music teacher who never goes anywhere without her mandolin. Jane gets to know Jimmy, who works with Duncan at his shop, mainly to keep impatient customers at bay when they call. Jimmy, who is described as “slow learning’’, is a sweet and lovable character. Together they get through life’s challenges and heartbreak.

Covering a span of 17 years, Early Morning Riser is a heartwarming examination of complicated relationships and what it means to be a family. This humorous book will appeal to fans of Anne Tyler, Jojo Moyes and Elizabeth Berg. Highly recommended.



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