Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review | This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance by Jonathan Evison

  This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance by Jonathan Evison
September 8, 2015;
Algonquin Books
With her husband Bernard two years in the grave, seventy-nine-year-old Harriet Chance sets sail on an ill-conceived Alaskan cruise only to discover through a series of revelations that she’s been living the past sixty years of her life under entirely false pretenses. There, amid the buffets and lounge singers, between the imagined appearance 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.

Jonathan Evison—bestselling author of West of Here, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, and All About Lulu—has crafted a bighearted novel with a supremely endearing heroine at its center. Through Harriet, he paints a bittersweet portrait of a postmodern everywoman 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, forgiveness, and, ultimately, healing. It is sure to appeal to admirers of Evison’s previous work, as well as fans of such writers as Meg Wolitzer, Junot Diaz, and Karen Joy. ~Goodreads

Widowed, Harriet Chance appeared to be content with her current life, viewed from a very considerable distance, in spite of the changes. It was only later that her life took a closer inspection… only when Bernard started showing up (again) unexpectedly, even in public… two years after his death.

Harriet and Bernard had been married for five decades. Their life had a pattern and it’s well-printed on Harriet. But there is more to Harriet’s life than just being married to Bernard –there’s motherhood, ambitions, regrets, and secrets, too. Darting to and fro through Harriet’s life, the story took a leisurely pace, picking some significant events and revealing the life-turns and corners she went through. All of them buried one on top of the other across time.

This is my first book by Jonathan Evison, and it is very evident that he already established his own voice in the literary world. He took Harriet and made a profound exploration of one ordinary life, yet intricate and compelling, with witticism and sting. I totally love the distinct choice of narration. For some reason, I kept hearing Edward Murrow’s voice as the narrator making another moral comment. Only this time he is crossing the divide between fiction and reality, using them here and then, to bring Harriet into a fully-realized character that we cannot easily forget.

However we see it–witty and charming or whimsical and profound- THIS IS YOUR LIFE, HARRIET CHANCE is an engrossing read that talks not just about forgiving others but for oneself as well; about rectifying things before it’s too late, and moving on. This is a fine example of a character study that reflects two sides of the coin in each person -each one is good and flawed, just like the rest of humanity.

I highly suggest that you put this on your TBR.

Book details:Title:  This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance
Author:  Jonathan Evison
Publication: September 8, 2015; Algonquin Books
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★

*Thank you, Algonquin and Netgalley for lending me a copy in exchange for this unbiased review.


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