Review: Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

“Talk about families…”

Genre: General Adult Fiction

Similar to: An American Zadie Smith, but not as good

Could be enjoyed by: Fans of US comedy?

Publication date: 1st June 2017 (I am so far behind with Netgalley reviews I’m surprised they still let me use it)

Have you ever read a book with no plot? I just have, and it’s called Standard Deviation. It’s as good as you’d expect a book with no plot to be.

The novel centres around Graham, a bland little man who has unfeasibly managed to convince two real life women to marry him (separately – he divorced his first wife then somehow gets a second). The first wife is Elspeth, a cold, precise, self possessed wraith of a woman who appears to have almost no personality. His second wife is Audra, a loud, shocking, in your face kind of person who makes “friends” everywhere she goes and will happily chat about her most intimate issues (and other peoples) with anyone that will listen. Graham ends up with both women present in his life, plus an autistic son called Matthew and a cast of Audra’s acquaintances who often end up sharing his house. They all sort of rub along….and nothing really happens. 

I’ve seen that other people found Audra hilarious but personally she grated on me. She was a bit like Janis in Friends – initially amusing but that wears off pretty quickly. I thought that a lot of her dialogue was just there for the shock value of being so inappropriate. I also hated how condescending she and Graham were, making comments about how they hoped their autistic son didn’t grow up to be like any of the men who went to his origami club and being really judgemental about Matthew’s school friends. 

I found the lack of plot in Standard Deviation quite frustrating – I was waiting for something more to happen. I liked the idea of providing a snapshot of everyday life but I really didn’t like not having a structure to the narrative. There’s one big event further on in the book but no beginning, middle and end to the story. It’s like a very dull midweek episode of Eastenders.

Overall, I didn’t like the main characters in this book and despite a host of quirky peripheral individuals I didn’t feel like I got to know any of them in enough detail to really enjoy their presence. I found the plot slow going (that’s me being kind – entirely absent is probably a better description) and most of the dialogue quite tedious. I know some people have raved about this novel but it really wasn’t for me.

Ummmm…that’s it really. So little happened that I have nothing more to say. 

Rating: Two “this is a long introduction”s out of five

One word: tedious. A plot would have been a good starting point. 

Please note that I read this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks Netgalley! 


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