Standard Deviation

Standard Deviation coverAuthor: Katherine Heiny
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Penguin Random House Audio | Random House Audio
Genre: Fiction – Contemporary Women
Release Date: May 23, 2017
10 Hours and 16 Minutes

I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.


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.


My Take Oblong Shaped

Graham, the hapless fellow in this novel, seems to let life happen to him. He and his second wife have been married 12 years.  She is an extrovert, possible with a deficit of those social boundaries which live in our frontal lobes.  It is her puppy-like openness to others in need which attracts people to her, or, occasionally turns them off.

Graham, is a little bit of a nerd who was once married to the human equivalent to an inanimate object. He was also less than faithful to his first wife, which is, we learn in the first few pages how he met his second wife. Hi adultery is strange i the light of his disaffection with others.

The couple has a son with Autism, and Asperger’s. He is very smart and his frank, and literal reactions to external stimuli give the novel some comic relief. 

The couple’s life is organized, and orchestrated by Audra, who develops a friendship with almost anyone with amazing velocity. She and Graham never publicly or in their own bubble, address each other’s faults or strange quirks. They are very attuned to each other most of the time.  The are quite dissimilar.

The story revolves around them trying to socialize with their son who is really into origami. His friends mostly also have some sort of cognitive issue, and he attends a special school. The Autism adds a layer f complexity to their lives, in a world already crowded with work and other events. 

I wasn’t really sure what the progressions of the story would be, and without spoiling it I cannot say much, but Graham’s past comes back to bite them and her “mini-skirt” days (a reference from the book) are not entirely over.

I did, I imagine, learn something about what complexities life with Asperger’s may add to a family’s life.  Instead of dropping a child off at soccer practice/activity you have to go with them.  Fortunately both parents are united in their love for their child.

Cassandra Campbell excels at the contemporary voice and, in particular, brings Audra into full-color life.   This story is not as funny as Graeme Simsion’s THE ROSIE PROJECT and THE ROSIE EFFECT and doesn’t as much show the way a person can arrange his life around his condition.  It is not a madcap tour or manual on finding love.   It shows more of the struggle a person has to deal with the perplexities of life and social interaction.

STANDARD DEVIATION does a good job at presenting these factors, but is also a little all over the place.  Audra’s best friend gets several chapters but I never really figured out how she helped the story advance.
If you like stories about contemporary life with some obstacles then this will be a story you may enjoy.