In Katherine Heiny’s debut novel, Standard Deviation, we meet Graham and Audra Cavanaugh, a typical New York couple with a city condo, a kid and a busy social life. Stylish, youngish and always saying outrageous things, Audra is a firecracker who delights and embarrasses all at once. Graham, her much older husband of 12 years, is quieter and more filtered. He loves Audra as she is, but he often finds himself wondering how this marriage of opposites has worked out so well over the years.
In statistics, standard deviation is defined as a measure of how far a number diverges from the group as a whole. The same can be said about Heiny’s novel, as she introduces characters and situations that make Audra and Graham’s relationship appear less and less normal. Among them is Graham’s ex-wife, Elspeth, whom Graham hasn’t talked to in years, but an unexpected run-in rekindles a relationship and leaves him questioning his marriage to Audra. There is also the parenting of Graham and Audra’s 10-year-old son, Matthew, who has Asperger’s syndrome and an obsession with origami. A slew of other interesting and peculiar acquaintances compose a veritable parade through the couple’s living room, adding perspective to their marriage with a bit of comedy mixed in.
Heiny offers a fun read about family dynamics as she sidesteps too much seriousness with quick wit and humorous dialogue.