Original review at 125pages.com
I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison
Published by Algonquin Books on September 8th 2015
Genres: Fiction, General, Contemporary Women,Family Life
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“Jonathan Evison is a ridiculously gifted storyteller: racing, breathless, and vibrant with his prose, hungry for personal truths, and clearly in love with the world around us all. That compassion and those writerly charms are deeply felt in This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!, an irresistible, inventive novel full of important ideas about how we live our lives as parents, children, partners, and human beings.” —Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins
With Bernard, her husband of fifty-five years, now in the grave, seventy-eight-year-old Harriet Chance impulsively sets sail on an ill-conceived Alaskan cruise that her late husband had planned. But what she hoped would be a voyage leading to a new lease on life becomes a surprising and revelatory journey into Harriet’s past.
There, amid the overwhelming buffets and the incessant lounge singers, between the imagined appearances of her late husband and the very real arrival of her estranged daughter midway through the cruise, Harriet is forced to take a long look back, confronting the truth about pivotal events that changed the course of her life. And in the process she discovers that she’s been living the better part of that life under entirely false assumptions.
In This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! Jonathan Evison has crafted a bighearted novel with an endearing heroine at the helm. Through Harriet, he paints a bittersweet portrait of a postmodern everywoman, her story told with great warmth, humanity, and humor. Part dysfunctional love story, part poignant exploration of the mother-daughter relationship, nothing is what it seems in this tale of acceptance, reexamination, and forgiveness.
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♦ I really enjoyed This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! I was not expecting such a refreshing tale about an elderly widow and her children. I was worried that this would be contrived or flat. However this book was full of heart and personality. Harriet is a smart and engaging character as are all the people revolving around her. This story rotates between present and past, where each past chapter helps explain the present. The time line is not linear but that is not distracting. The pacing was spot on and the world created was very real. It was a happy change to read a book that was just nice. No violence, little sex with no vivid description, mostly emotion and conversation. I have not previously read anything by Jonathan Evison but now I would definitely pick up another of his works.
◊ Favorite lines from Chapter February 14, 2014 – “Oh no, Harriet. You fantasize about clubbing Bernard senseless like a harp seal. Pushing him down stairs, in front of UPS trucks, off of cliffs. Only halfheartedly do you fantasize, of course. It doesn’t matter that you’ll never act on these impulses, it doesn’t matter that they’re just aberrant manifestations of extreme frustration and grief, the sort of thing that any caregiving manual would caution you against, they are sick and unforgivable, and you hate yourself for these thoughts.”
¤ Biggest Cliché – Happily there was a lack of obvious cliché in this book. Yes, stuff happens that has happened in other books, but the way it was put together was fresh.
Δ In a retrospective of your life, what would you want your family to say about you?