This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison (5 out of 5)
I got a galley of this from writing to the my friend Lauren at Algonquin and BEGGING her for an advance of it. I read The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving the year that I became a full-time caregiver for my dad. I read West of Here the year I contemplated moving to Arizona and getting out of Dodge (aka Chicago). I seem to read Jonathan’s books whenever life is giving me a whirlpool bath minus the enjoyment. I’ve had a few very odd weeks, so this seemed like a perfect time to pick up this book and give it a whirl (pun intended, in this case). I am SO, SO glad that I did. It went a long way towards making me feel so much better about some trivial things in my life; the book went far toward making me think about the bonds of family, the bonds of true love, and how getting older really does make you reflect on every little thing. I’m 42, and it’s already happening! I’d hate to see how I am at 79 (the age Harriet is).
The thing I like about Jonathan’s books is that the characters become part of your family. Harriet was such a kick. I got over reading in the first and third person’s voices pretty quick (it helps when you do it in everyday life; try it, dear reader!), because the novel was so easy to just slide into. So don’t let that deter you!
Harriet Chance is 79 years old; her husband Bernard has been dead (but not quite) for two years, when she receives a call informing her that he had won an Alaskan cruise and the time to take that cruise is coming closely to an end. After much arguing with herself, Harriet says the hell with it and takes the cruise. Though circumstances that I have to limit lest the reader incarnate figure out the plot and ending of the book, Harriet finds out that the past 60 years of her life have been not quite what she thought. Bernard is still hanging around her, and her estranged daughter shows up midway through the cruise, bringing about all sorts of revelations that make Harriet rethink everything she’s ever believed. It all sounds like an episode of the Golden Girls, and Harriet did remind me of my favorite Golden Girls (I thought of her as a combination of all of the girls, but without Rose’s ditz factor involved. Harriet’s a pretty sharp tool in the cargo hold), so believe me when I say this is a compliment. The book goes back and forth between Harriet’s life at various ages, and that helped keep things hopping, at least for me. The chapters are fairly quick and seamless, and add to the big reveals that she uncovers on the cruise. All in all, a great novel of a complicated mother/daughter relationship, the bonds of true love during and beyond life, and proof that life is never quite the rose-colored glass you’re drinking that Chianti out of. This book is out on September 8, 2015, via Algonquin Books. Do yourself a favor and throw it on your To-Be-Read lists right now. I had the time of my life reading this, so make sure you have the time of your life reading it as well.