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Standard Deviation
Cover of Standard Deviation
Standard Deviation
A Novel
TheSkimm's Best of Skimm Reads
NPR's Guide to Great Reads
The Washington Post's 50 Notable Works of Fiction of the Year
Minnesota Public Radio's The Best Books to Give and Get: Fiction Picks of the Year
An uproarious novel ("Both heart-piercing and, crucially, very funny." —Louise Erdrich, The New York Times) from the celebrated author of Single, Carefree, Mellow about the challenges of a good marriage, the delight and heartache of raising children, and the irresistible temptation to wonder about the path not taken.

When Graham Cavanaugh divorced his first wife it was to marry his girlfriend, Audra, a woman as irrepressible as she is spontaneous and fun. But, Graham learns, life with Audra can also be exhausting, constantly interrupted by chatty phone calls, picky-eater houseguests, and invitations to weddings of people he's never met. Audra firmly believes that through the sheer force of her personality she can overcome the most socially challenging interactions, shepherding her son through awkward playdates and origami club, and even deciding to establish a friendship with Graham's first wife, Elspeth. Graham isn't sure he understands why Audra longs to be friends with the woman he divorced. After all, former spouses are hard to categorize—are they enemies, old flames, or just people you know really, really well? And as Graham and Audra share dinners, holidays, and late glasses of wine with his first wife he starts to wonder: How can anyone love two such different women? Did I make the right choice? Is there a right choice? A hilarious and rueful debut novel of love, marriage, infidelity, and origami, Standard Deviation never deviates from the superb.
TheSkimm's Best of Skimm Reads
NPR's Guide to Great Reads
The Washington Post's 50 Notable Works of Fiction of the Year
Minnesota Public Radio's The Best Books to Give and Get: Fiction Picks of the Year
An uproarious novel ("Both heart-piercing and, crucially, very funny." —Louise Erdrich, The New York Times) from the celebrated author of Single, Carefree, Mellow about the challenges of a good marriage, the delight and heartache of raising children, and the irresistible temptation to wonder about the path not taken.

When Graham Cavanaugh divorced his first wife it was to marry his girlfriend, Audra, a woman as irrepressible as she is spontaneous and fun. But, Graham learns, life with Audra can also be exhausting, constantly interrupted by chatty phone calls, picky-eater houseguests, and invitations to weddings of people he's never met. Audra firmly believes that through the sheer force of her personality she can overcome the most socially challenging interactions, shepherding her son through awkward playdates and origami club, and even deciding to establish a friendship with Graham's first wife, Elspeth. Graham isn't sure he understands why Audra longs to be friends with the woman he divorced. After all, former spouses are hard to categorize—are they enemies, old flames, or just people you know really, really well? And as Graham and Audra share dinners, holidays, and late glasses of wine with his first wife he starts to wonder: How can anyone love two such different women? Did I make the right choice? Is there a right choice? A hilarious and rueful debut novel of love, marriage, infidelity, and origami, Standard Deviation never deviates from the superb.
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Excerpts-
  • From the cover Chapter | One

    It had begun to seem to Graham, in this, the twelfth year of his second marriage, that he and his wife lived in parallel universes. And worse, it seemed his universe was lonely and arid, and hers was densely populated with armies of friends and acquaintances and other people he did not know.

    Here they were grocery shopping in Fairway on a Saturday morning, a normal married thing to do together—­although, ­Graham could not help noticing, they were not doing it together. His wife, Audra, spent almost the whole time talking to people she knew—­it was like accompanying a visiting dignity of some sort, or maybe a presidential hopeful—­while he did the normal shopping.

    First, in the produce section, they saw some woman with a baby in a stroller and Audra said, "Oh, hi! How are you? Are you going to that thing on Tuesday?" and the woman said, "I don't know, because there's that other meeting," and Audra said, "I thought that got canceled," and the woman said, "No, it's still on," and Audra said, "I wish they wouldn't double-­book this stuff," and the woman said, "I know," and Audra said, "Well, if we don't go, will everyone say bad things about us?" and the woman said, "Probably," and it wasn't that Graham wasn't paying attention, it wasn't that he missed the specifics—­it was that there were no specifics, that was the way they actually talked.

    He took his time thumping melons and picking over grapefruit and was actually rewarded for being forced to linger by remembering to buy green grapes, which weren't on the list.

    "Who was that?" he asked when Audra rejoined him.

    "Who?" Audra said. She was peering into the shopping cart.

    "That woman you just said hello to."

    "Oh, she has a girl in Matthew's class," Audra said, selecting an apple. "And a five-­year-­old and a toddler and that baby, if you can believe it. But no more, because when the baby was only a week old, she had her husband get a vasectomy. Just made the arrangements and woke him that morning and said, 'Guess what? You've got a doctor's appointment.' And he went!"

    She took a bite of the apple. Audra was forty-­one—­a slender woman with a not-­quite-­perfectly oval face. In fact, Graham sometimes thought, all of Audra was not-­quite. Her eyes were not quite brown but had stalled at hazel, her lips were not quite full enough to be lush, her eyebrows were not quite high enough to be called arched, her chin-­length hair was not quite auburn, and its messy waves were not quite ringlets. She'd worn her hair this length for as long as Graham had known her. Apparently, if she cut it shorter, it curled up around her face and made her head look overly round, and if she grew it longer, the ends got too heavy and she had to have lots of layers put in. (This was marriage: you started out thinking you'd married the most interesting person in all the world and twelve years later, your head was full of useless hair facts. Of course, there was other stuff in there—­some milestones, having a baby, buying a house—­but that was basically the essence of it.) Audra was not quite beautiful but her liveliness kept her far away from plain.

    One aisle over, in the breakfast cereals department, Audra suddenly stopped the cart. A young man behind them glared but Audra paid no attention.

    "Oh! Hey!" Audra said. "Look! Hello! Hi! Whoa! How are you?" You would have thought she was greeting a whole soccer team instead of one lady in a T-shirt and jeans with her hair pulled back into a bun.

    "Hello, Audra," the lady said.

    "So sorry I missed yoga this...
About the Author-
  • KATHERINE HEINY is the author of Single, Carefree Mellow, a collection of short stories. Her fiction has been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and many other places. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and children.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 20, 2017
    This first novel from Heiny (Single, Carefree, Mellow) meanders cheerfully along, making up for its relative lack of action with its humor and insight into characters. Introverted, middle-aged Graham has been married for 12 years to his talkative, younger second wife Audra, and he’s beginning to wonder whether they’re really suited for each other, or if he should have stuck with his “tall and slim and regal” attorney ex-wife Elspeth, with whom he’s just begun speaking again. Graham and Audra have a 10-year-old son, Matthew, who is socially awkward and obsessed with origami, and about whom they spend a good deal of their mental energy worrying. They host Thanksgiving for an assortment of quirky characters, including the misfit adults from Matthew’s origami club; take their son and a friend they nickname “Derek Rottweiler” on an ill-fated fishing expedition; and attend an unexpected funeral. Heiny has a flair for peculiar but believable dialogue, and a generous attitude towards even the most inept characters, particularly Graham, whose befuddlement about his life choices and his longing to smooth things out for his son persist throughout the changes in his life. At the heart of the novel is a finely tuned awareness of the fragility of the most seemingly permanent connections and the ambivalence shot through even the hardiest forms of love.

  • AudioFile Magazine Narrator Cassandra Campbell never deviates from a lively presentation that depicts the complexities of love and marriage. As the novel's omniscient narrator, her steady, velvety voice captures the story's numerous situational ironies and perfectly embodies its vivid characters. After 10 years of marriage to his loquacious second wife, Audra, Graham finds himself observing her with a curious mix of acceptance and dismay, which Campbell captures in a tone that highlights his moments of exasperation. With a high pitch and fast pace, Campbell bring out Audra's hilarious "no-filter" chattiness and outlandish antics. Audra's personality is contrasted with that of Elspeth, Graham's steady, quiet, soft-spoken ex-wife. Overall, Campbell's delightful performance filled with heart and humor. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award � AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine
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Standard Deviation
A Novel
Katherine Heiny
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