Some books you read for your brain, and some you read for your heart–this books, is somewhere in the middle. Early Morning Rise by Katherine Heiny is the kind of literary fiction that five years ago would have been shelved as “women’s fiction” and not talked about, but I’m so glad I read it! It’s got a great cover, a lovely story, and I was really impressed with the subtle humor, the ending, and the way it handled the passage of a long amount of time.
We start in 2002–Jane is new to Boyne City, and a 2nd grade teacher, and quickly falls for Ladies Man Duncan. It’s not that he’s sleeping around on her, it’s that he’s been romantically involved with what seems to be every woman in town, and in nearby towns, and he’s still friendly with them. He still mows his ex wife’s lawn! While Jane falls for Duncan, he stays semi-busy at work as a woodworker, along with his coworker, Jimmy, a mentally handicapped young man who is sweet as can be but can’t really take care of himself. One day–years later–something happens that interrupts everyone’s lives and plans, and suddenly Jane’s future looks a lot different. Her family structure looks different. Her life is changed, forever. And perhaps, in many ways, not as for the worst as she might have expected. As Jane and Duncan grow together and fall apart and everything in between, we also see Jane become a mother to young girls as well as to Jimmy, and we ultimately feel our heart swell at the very end.
This book is approximately 320 pages and covers 17 years–impressive I Know. This is, in many ways, a quotidian book. It’s about life, mundane life at times. It’s quaint in the best ways–with some big moments too, but subtly handled. Jane’s a great character, with a lot of humor in her prose, but also kind of a Plain Jane in a lot of ways. The pacing was fascinating. I liked that you could stay with the story easily and be caught up but not bogged down by the minutia of how things happened from month 1 to month 2. There was also such care made with the other characters–from Aggie and Gary to Patrice and Glenn, that I almost didn’t even care about Duncan anymore. Her romance with him was so secondary to her life, and I loved that in how it subverted the expectations of the book.
Overall, this was a 4.5 star read for me. Give it a shot–it’s a delicate right, but it’s got a lot of heart, and it’s not too long!