Katherine Heiny’s debut novel, Standard Deviation, is a hilarious examination of love, family, infidelity, and origami. As Elin Hilderbrand puts it, this book is “an irresistibly charming novel about age-old institutions: marriage and parenting. But Heiny’s brilliantly drawn characters and her keen insights make both topics feel brand-new.”
While reading this unsparing take on domestic life, we couldn’t help but wonder: What other books about marriage have influenced Heiny over the years? The author was kind enough to provide a list of her favorite novels on the subject and it’s even more delightful than we expected. Keep reading to see for yourself!
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
This is a sort of cautionary tale about marriage. Like, you know, maybe don’t rush into matrimony with some emotionally unavailable guy you meet on vacation whose first wife died under mysterious circumstances? The book also has life lessons about the inadvisability of keeping secrets from your spouse, and the dangers of a codependent relationship with your housekeeper. But I wouldn’t change a word of du Maurier’s novel. It’s a masterpiece.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Strout’s novel examines many marriages, but the first chapter, “Pharmacy,” is all you need to read to be amazed by (and jealous of) her needle-sharp perception and graceful prose. Henry Kitteridge is married to the acerbic and disagreeable Olive, who has “a darkness that seemed to stand beside her like an acquaintance that would not go away.” There’s a fantastic sex scene where Olive says only one word: “Goodness.” Do yourself a favor and read it.
How to Be Good by Nick Hornby
How to Be Good is my favorite Hornby novel and that’s saying more than you can imagine. It’s hilarious, poignant, compelling, and thought-provoking—what more could you possibly want? And there’s an argument between husband and wife in the first few pages about a dentist appointment that’s a master class in character development, and revealing dialogue, and comic timing, and everything else writers should know. The novel should really be called How to Be the Best.
The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
These books are not about marriage, precisely, but it’s impossible to read them without wondering what married life was like for Ma. I realize that Pa was awfully sexy (all that fiddle-playing and carpentry know-how) but he was undoubtedly maddening what with always wanting to move west and live in drafty log cabins. I honestly don’t know how she coped. And I think I speak for everyone when I say: Laura Ingalls Wilder rocks.