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.
©2015 Original Material © 2015 by Jonathan Evison (P)2015 (p) 2015 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
"Evison is a ridiculously gifted storyteller…[This is] 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
"Has all the wonderful snap and sizzle we've come to expect from Jonathan Evison's work, and as much heart as any novel I've read in recent years. [He] packs an entire life - many lives - into this fine book, and does so with the empathy and insight of a writer at the top of his game." (Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk)
"Susan Boyce's voice for the elderly Harriet is spot-on; she provides the careful, precise diction of a person who has lived her life weighing her words to protect her secrets." (AudioFile)
Greedy, voracious reader since age five. After a number of eye injuries & surgeries, reading is hard. So now, I listen.
I don't want to give away anything here. The widow discovers her husband had a secret. The mother and daughter have a difficult relationship. There you go.
This is a really great, fun book, and the best part, for me, is discovering a male author who can so completely inhabit the hearts and minds of women. He does an astonishing job! I want to meet Jonathan Evison and marry him. After I divorce the husband I have now.
Really enjoyed this book and narration. One little thing...the narrator pronounces Harriet's town incorrectly. Sequim is pronounced like Squim, not "Seaquim". I think it's important to say this correctly.
Besides incessant listening to audiobooks, I also read on my Kindle at night, birdwatch, garden (roses, daylilies), and do genealogy.
From the description, it sounded like a fun and fascinating story. The reviews, for the most part, confirmed this. So I dived in. It would be very difficult to explain why I didn't like this book without giving away a few SPOILERS. So, although I will try to minimize them, I can't do this review without a few giveaways. If you are sure you want to try this book, don't read my review.
What I liked:
The whole idea of an older lady going on a cruise and finding out her life was not what she thought it was sounded irresistible. How could a story taking place on a cruise to Alaska not be fun, right? I think the narrator did a perfect job of Harriet's voice and others, for that matter (see What I disliked). The author developed the characters sufficiently and I had a feel for who they were. At no time was I bored or did I consider not finishing the story, no matter what my gripes. It was constructed in such a way to keep the story moving along at an easy to listen to pace.
What I disliked:
What first comes to mind and by far the most annoying to me was the way Harriet ended each reply to any person with "Dear". Yes Dear, No Dear, Yada yada yada, Dear. I could somehow buy it for her daughter--once in a while--but not with every Tom, Dick, and Harry she came across. It must have been used hundreds of times and came to grate on me greatly. Although the author captured the elderly woman voice well, it made Harriet sound like a boring, polyester-wearing, tiny-white-tennies type of character to me. She was not for a minute fun-loving, quirky, admirable, or at all likable to me. She had put up with a stagnant, dead marriage to a detached, shut down husband for tens of years and knew not a thing of her husband's duplicitous ways. (Guess I should acknowledge she suffered a significant hardship over the course of her life, which certainly must have affected her adversely.)
Plus, as the story evolved, you learned why her daughter was such a loser in Harriet's eyes. Could it have been because Harriet always favored her son Skipper and blamed her daughter for the circumstances of her birth, something an innocent child has nothing to do with? You think maybe? If this story made me feel anything, it was sympathy for poor Caroline--and I don't think the author was even aiming for that.
Lastly and as frustrating as the 'Dear' repetition were the writing gimmicks. Every few minutes, the story switched to Harriet at a different age in her life, from baby to most recent, in no chronological order at all, with a sassy narrator briefly summarizing to Harriet what she had been through. In this way, we learned about Harriet's life.
Want more? I didn't like the appearance of Harriet's deceased husband at odd moments on the cruise. It served no purpose, in my opinion, and only succeeded in making Harriet erroneously seem to have dementia as she talked to the apparition.
As you can see, Harriet Chance was not my kind of old lady nor my kind of story. I cannot recommend it.
I enjoy portraits and that's what this is, a portrait of a very typical, average elderly woman. The simple tale leaves you questioning the purpose of her existence and your own. I found Harriet to be quite endearing, as flawed as she may have been.
The fabrics of humanity woven together in this story are masterfully captured. Evison is able to touch on both the tender and crippling colors of life in a way that fully immerses the reader using the balanced polarity of humor and agony.
Listened to it in audible in one sitting and didn't sleep. COULDN'T sleep until I completed.
I feel like I understand my mother and grand mother better after experiencing.
Helen Chance is on an Alaskan cruise that her deceased husband bought (without her knowledge) two years ago. The physical journey is mirrored in the journey through her own life, which we see in flashbacks from the past (in no particular order). She has a chance to make peace with her "prickly" daughter (and, having been an honest, prickly daughter, myself, made me feel better about my relationship with my own mother), to see the truth about her son, her husband, her best friend. I enjoyed both journeys with her and couldn't stop listening to the book. It was *wonderful*. Well-written and an unexpected pleasure. Highly recommended.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
This is a story for those who have reached a certain age. Though written by a man, it is narrated by a woman. In some respects, that is a weakness. Having been written by a man, it may distort the measure of a woman’s life. However, Jonathan Evison offers an excellent representation of what life and death looks like to a man. The mistakes some men make in life are legion, both as a parent and husband.
Evison speculates on an afterlife that says humans either die into nothingness or go to a place of peace and reconciliation. Those are the only options in Evison’s story.
Evison touches every human being’s faults in “This is Your Life, Harriet Chance”. No one is exempt from human failing. Being of a certain age makes Evison’s story enlightening and entertaining. Enlightening because a listener knows they are not alone. Entertaining because a listener will enjoy Evison’s perspective on life’s journey.
I enjoyed the book more as the references to the past were given meaning. The end was okay but I thought there would be an epilogue or something explaining why her life was being presented.
Producer should have made sure the reader knew how to pronounce local town name...after 1 hour the repeated error in local town name proved too much for me. The author tries for unique sentence structures. Once or twice is okay but repeated throughout the first hour of the book made me give up.
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