Day 778: This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!

Cover for This Is Your Life, Harriet ChanceA few years ago, I read Jonathan Evison’s West of Here. This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! is nothing like it. It’s a somewhat whimsically told story of the whole of one woman’s difficult life.

Harriet Chance is a widow nearing 80 whose husband died a few months before from Alzheimer’s. She gets a call from a cruise company telling her that her husband booked a cruise to Alaska for two. At first, she has no intention of going, but then she decides to take her best friend, Mildred.

Her friends and family are a little concerned, because she claims she is being haunted by her husband, Bernard. Harriet is a little worried that they want her to enter the retirement community where Mildred lives. She loves her home and doesn’t want to leave. Besides, Bernard is haunting her.

When Mildred’s son arrives to pick Harriet up for the cruise, she learns that Mildred isn’t coming after all. Instead, Dwight gives her a letter to open on the ship. Harriet isn’t going to like what it says.

link to NetgalleyTold in a way that is supposed to remind us of the old TV show, “This Is Your Life,” the novel skips backward and forward to scenes from Harriet’s ordinary-seeming but painful life. This narrative technique is anchored by the story of the cruise, which is told linearly.

I found this novel touching, although in some ways the narrative style creates distance from the story. It’s a serious story told as if it’s a comedy, with bumbling, repentant Bernard as a chorus in ghost form.

Related Posts

West of Here

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

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2 thoughts on “Day 778: This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!

  1. Naomi September 28, 2015 / 1:06 pm

    The cover and title of this book make me think of Where’d You Go, Bernadette? which was also funny and serious at the same time. I found it to be a refreshing change of pace. I wonder if this one would be the similar.

    • whatmeread September 28, 2015 / 1:08 pm

      Maybe I didn’t explain it very well. It’s not really funny, but it’s told in a lighthearted way. It’s hard to convey. Bernadette was much funnier.

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