The aptly named widow Harriet Chance takes an unexpected and out-of-character cruise to Alaska, on which she discovers that her marriage of almost 60 years was not what she thought. Joined by her troubled daughter, and haunted (literally) by her dead husband, Harriet begins to question everything she knew about her life. Moving back and forth through time, presenting the events of her life as if it were a 50’s television show, the author peels away the layers of Harriet’s life to expose the dreams, decisions, and missed chances that brought her to this point. In turns funny and poignant, this novel is an empathetic look at those opportunities that slip through our fingers during the course of a lifetime.
- Cindy— From Cindy's Recs
September 2015 Indie Next List
“With This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!, Evison has crafted an instant classic. Recently widowed 78-year-old Harriet embarks on an Alaskan cruise that proves to be the vehicle for her own self-discovery. As one shocking truth after another is revealed about Harriet's life, readers come to love this woman who is anything but perfect, and whose life is anything but ordinary. With an inventive, addictive structure and prose that surges with life, humor, and compassion, This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! is one to move to the very top of your reading list.”
— Rob Dougherty, Clinton Book Shop, Clinton, NJ
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.
About the Author
“Thank heaven for surprises, especially of the Jonathan Evison variety . . . Sure to become a book club favourite this fall, This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! is a pleasurable mix of the crazy escapades, changing relationships and thoughtful reflections that make up a life. It shows us that whatever age we are, the delightful surprises never stop, but neither do the growing pains. It reminds us too that when it comes to forgiveness, often the hardest person to forgive is ourselves.”—Toronto Star
“Evison writes with his typical unflinching honesty about a life that is not what it seems . . . poignant reflections on aging, parenting, friendship and marriage constantly surprise with their quiet truthfulness.” —The Globe and Mail
“In every situation, poor Harriet draws the short straw. But This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! is anything but a drag: Evison . . . makes Harriet’s sad story sing . . . [Evison’s] over-the-top commentary conveys the pathos of Harriet’s misadventures with just the right blend of snark and sympathy, and it’s tremendously fun to read . . . Harriet’s character emerges in fascinating detail, as if from a chrysalis . . . She’s much more interesting than we thought. So, for that matter, is Evison’s novel . . .” —Commentary
“Evison is a talented writer that is capable of making the reader think beyond the book with his candid character conversations and dialogues and his thought-provoking subject matter. Through humor and seriousness, Evison will almost force the reader to consume this book in one sitting!”—Portland Book Review
“Luckily for readers, there is This is Your Life, Harriet Chance, by Jonathan Evison, to provide a contemplative, funny and sensitive take on the polychromatic journey of life . . . a patchwork of moments, both large and small, that are, in turns, amusing, heartbreaking and recognizable in their universality . . . At its core, Evison’s book is an examination of human identity and what that means as a person grows older and begins to entwine and interact with other people . . . [Harriet is faced] with rediscovering her own individuality and with moving beyond the dysfunctional relationship she has had with her adult daughter. Written with both humor and pathos, This is Your Life, Harriet Chance probes the juncture where those two intersect, where the beautiful melancholy of life is the sweetest.” —Summit Daily (Vail, Colorado)
“This novel works from every angle. . . I laughed, giggled, cried and held Harriet close as the pages of her life opened to me. Then I started over again not ready to let her go. I not only recommend you read this one, I urge you to read it. The life you come to understand may well be your own.” —Roanoke Times