One of my favorite parts of this novel is how it subtly scolds readers for our or maybe just my? No, not in the Sarah Palin sense of seeing it from the kitchen window. Harriet Chance is an out-of-the-ordinary but believable protagonist who, like all of us, has a mixture of victories and disappointments behind her. The second-person you-are-there voice was added during revision. They were part of the revelation of Harriet's life. Can we learn to visualize our own futures by analyzing ourselves in a similar way? When she finds out that just before his death, Bernard entered a drawing for an Alaskan cruise—and one—Harriet sees this as a chance to scatter his ashes and perhaps move on into her twilight years. Funny too more often than not although there are some heart breaking moments as well.
No, not in the Sarah Palin sense of seeing it from the kitchen window. Harriet Chance is a 79-year-0ld widow who learns her husband booked an Alaskan cruise for them before his death. All that panting and pushing, all that clenching and straining, eyes bulging, forehead slick with sweat. Let's not forget the grit and determination of your mother. There actually was a show like this on a hundred years ago-I barely remember it and I'm ancient Harriet's story is told through flash backs and present time. Harriet Chance, a 78-year-old woman, faces her own mortality.
I loved Jonathan Evison's first book, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, and this book had a similar banter-ish tone to it. And let me just say, it was one hot mess!!! In a starred review of This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! With a touch of snark and a lashing of perfectly affected irony, he flenses her to the bone and, somehow, seems kind in doing it. I not only recommend you read this one, I urge you to read it. What about her relationship with Charley Fitzsimons? And what awful people she led it with, including her husband, her parents, her 'uncle', her best friend and her children. At first Harriet has no desire to make the cruise but her children talk her into it. This book was not what I expected, but I enjoyed it immensely. This absurd little novel defies definition.
I woke early Wednesday morning with the book and my glasses still on the bed, finishing the book before lunch. At 79 years old, perhaps Harriet Chance hasn't quite lived the life she imagined. I'm spotlighting a reviewer that my friend Kelly made told me to start following. This was a pretty good read. That was bad enough but then additional layers of Harriet's background are revealed. She is shocked to find her husband had purchased or won? But I did finish the book, which says something about the easy writing style.
As the book unfolded, I kept waiting for an arc to build. Don't think I will ever forget Harriet and the lobster. I couldn't help but think of John Candy in the movie Uncle Buck. So easy to identify with, except the dead husband part maybe, though I did appreciate that little insertion of whimsy. The writer being Harriet herself probably. Do you think the author made the right choice? Was Caroline culpable as well? The kids, her friends, everyone it seems thinks Harriet is going crazy, but Harriet knows that Bernie keeps returning to tell her things, so he must have a reason. Through Harriet, he paints a bittersweet portrait of a postmodern everywoman with great warmth, humanity, and humor.
Everything else in the story is so steeped in realism--the strained mother-daughter relationship, the traditional gender roles, the struggles with weight and alcohol, the failed career dreams, the family dysfunction and infidelity--that I wondered why I was wasting my time reading a story when I could just watch the people around me suffer through life. You could be a widow. The themes Evison presents — disappointment, delusion, redemption — are universal, and he deals with them beautifully in this wonderful novel. But she always continues to march on, no matter the screw ups or down times. You can't remember when exactly you started carrying umbrellas just in case, when you started scheduling your weekly hair washings, oversalting your food, or reusing zipper-lock bags. At first I as a reader took this to be an indication of Harriet's dementia, but then the book provides a couple scenes showing her husband's afterlife presumably heaven where he has to bargain for permission to return to earth to try to straighten things out.
In fact, I challenge you to find a more endearing, crotchety, undaunted heroine than 78-year-old Harriet Chance, who sets sail on a cruise against her better judgment. Finally, the invisible old woman takes her well-deserved place in our imaginations. Their answers are not conclusive. Who do you think the voice of the This Is Your Life narrative portion of the novel belongs to? Harriet could be my mother, your grandmother. She was only a baby when he started manipulating her.
Staff Reviews Jonathan Evison gets better with each new book. A book of secrets, This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! Despite this, Evison manages to keep enough lightheartedness, humor and sweetness throughout. Not the boy your father so desperately wanted, but here you come, anyway, all six pounds three ounces of you. We all do, the best we can and so did Harriet. In his later years he suffered from Alzheimer's which she patiently cared for as long as she could. But Harriet is seeking redemption and is looking for a fresh start, her thoughts, regrets, stubbornness and determinations are heartfelt and honest….
Bernard has some unfinished business. You do have to live sometime. She looks back to reassess the meaning of her life, her unresolved conflicts, hidden secrets, her need to seek forgiveness from those she has hurt, and finally her need to forgive herself for her own blind spots and failures. With a touch of snark and a lashing of perfectly affected irony, he flenses her to the bone and, somehow, seems kind in doing it. She is endearing, but not without faults of her own; sometimes the victim and sometimes the perpetrator of wrongs done to others. The cruise gets off to a shaky start with an unfortunate crab leg incident, and never really settles into a relaxing vacation for poor Harriet. Harriet Chance is 78 years old, widowed, and about to learn something that puts her entire life into question.