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Standard Deviation
208 pages; Fourth Estate
Smart, hilarious and achingly observant, Heiny's debut novel explores the complexities of marriage in ways that make you laugh, then wince, then laugh again, all while tearing through the pages. At the center of the action is New Yorker and amateur home chef Graham, who adores his eccentric second wife, Audra, but remains befuddled by her habit of inviting any passing stranger she meets into their apartment—not just for dinner, but for lengthy stays. Eventually, Audra folds his ex-wife, Elspeth, into their lives, along with her elegant outfits, icy attitude and her dandy boyfriend. Certain uncomfortable crushes ensue, all made more complicated as Graham and Audra try to help their 10-year-old son, Matthew—who has Asperger's—through his own social confusions. Along the way, the cast of Audra's many guests—ranging from the members of an origami club obsessed with obscure folding techniques to a slobbering, moaning, chocolate Lab called Brodie—seduce and delight. Be forewarned, Heiny knows how to nail the painful moments with sudden, exquisite articulation. As Graham says to himself, "You could learn things about your wife and marriage that you never suspected and still function. You could go around completely shredded inside and no one could even tell." 
— Leigh Newman