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This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!
Cover of This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!
This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!
A Novel

"Insightful, richly entertaining . . . Evison writes humanely and with good humor of his characters, who, like the rest of us, muddle through, too often without giving ourselves much of a break. A lovely, forgiving character study that's a pleasure to read." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

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.
Jonathan Evison has crafted a bighearted novel with an endearing heroine at the helm. 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.

"A terrific novel, funny and moving, wistful and wise. Jonathan Evison's writing crackles on the page." —Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins

"This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! is as sweet as it is inventive, profound as it is hilarious, unflinching as it is bighearted." —Maria Semple, author of Where'd You Go, Bernadette

"[An] irresistible, inventive novel full of important ideas about how we live our lives as parents, children, partners, and human beings . . . Evison is a ridiculously gifted storyteller." —Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins

"A generous and wise tale, told with Evison's trademark verve and charisma, This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! is a deeply felt and deeply comforting novel." —Patrick deWitt, author of The Sisters Brothers

"This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! 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." —Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
"Both uplifting and melancholy, funny and thought-provoking, this entertaining read speaks directly to the importance of acceptance and healing." —Booklist

"Insightful, richly entertaining . . . Evison writes humanely and with good humor of his characters, who, like the rest of us, muddle through, too often without giving ourselves much of a break. A lovely, forgiving character study that's a pleasure to read." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

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.
Jonathan Evison has crafted a bighearted novel with an endearing heroine at the helm. 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.

"A terrific novel, funny and moving, wistful and wise. Jonathan Evison's writing crackles on the page." —Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins

"This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! is as sweet as it is inventive, profound as it is hilarious, unflinching as it is bighearted." —Maria Semple, author of Where'd You Go, Bernadette

"[An] irresistible, inventive novel full of important ideas about how we live our lives as parents, children, partners, and human beings . . . Evison is a ridiculously gifted storyteller." —Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins

"A generous and wise tale, told with Evison's trademark verve and charisma, This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! is a deeply felt and deeply comforting novel." —Patrick deWitt, author of The Sisters Brothers

"This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! 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." —Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
"Both uplifting and melancholy, funny and thought-provoking, this entertaining read speaks directly to the importance of acceptance and healing." —Booklist

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About the Author-
  • Jonathan Evison is the author of four novels, including This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, West of Here, and All About Lulu. He lives on the coast of Washington State with his wife and two children.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 27, 2015
    Harriet Chance, a 78-year-old Seattle native, gets an unexpected phone call informing her that her husband, Bernard, now dead, had won a trip on an Alaskan cruise at a charity auction and failed to pick up his winnings. With the voucher set to expire, Harriet decides to go out of her comfort zone and bring a friend on the trip. The trip causes Harriet to question everything she thought she knew about her past and her relationships. Evison (The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving) chooses a second-person narrative to delve into the mind-set of Harriet, a woman who seems estranged from not only her close family (including favored but distant son Skip and her troubled recovering addict daughter Caroline) but from herself. The time line skips back in forth: from her wedding day at 22 as a pregnant bride, to her attempts to cast off her domestic duties and reenter the work force (“Look at you, Harriet Chance, so diligent, so fastidious in your attention to detail!”). Evison’s voice is buoyant and cheeky as he unveils the deep traumas that form Harriet’s sense of herself, but there are missteps—namely, a secondary narrative in which Bernard Chance risks being barred from a sketchily described afterlife to try to communicate with Harriet. Still, Evison succeeds in crafting a believable and gut-wrenching story, particularly Harriet’s relationship with her daughter and their efforts to accept and love one another. Agent: Mollie Glick, Foundry Literary + Media.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from July 1, 2015
    Insightful, richly entertaining look at a woman who, very late in the game, finds that life remains full of surprises. It's not often that a male writer gets inside the head of a female character without botching it somehow; Jim Harrison pulled it off in Dalva and maybe Daniel Defoe in Moll Flanders. Evison joins that short list with a yarn that, like his Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving (2012), seems a bit of a comic detour from his more serious earlier work (West of Here, 2011, etc.). The eponymous lead is wrestling with the fact that her husband of many decades has passed away, though she keeps seeing him; as the book opens, she's working hard to convince her priest that "Bernard still lingered somehow in the earthly realm," and certainly Bernard, "five decades of familiarity imprinted on her memory like a phantom limb," continues to exercise some influence over his wife when she learns that he's booked an Alaskan cruise for her, seemingly from beyond the grave. Naturally, Bernard haunts the halls of the cruise ship-but then, other unexpected persons turn up there, too, players in a seriocomic series of turns in which she discovers that her life with Bernard had plenty of corners that she never knew about. Harriet's no patsy, but she has a way of blundering into mishaps, including a memorable run-in with security ("Do I look like a terrorist to you? For heaven's sake, I'm Episcopalian!"). Evison allows his story to unfold at leisure, darting back and forth across the span of Harriet's life and sometimes telegraphing what lies ahead: writing of (and to) her at the age of 30, for instance, he says of one to-be-revealed matter, "it will be 48 years before you will confide the information to anyone." So Harriet, it seems, has secrets of her own. Evison writes humanely and with good humor of his characters, who, like the rest of us, muddle through, too often without giving ourselves much of a break. A lovely, forgiving character study that's a pleasure to read.

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    May 1, 2015
    Evison has done nicely with multiple best-book honoree "All About Lulu", as well as two Pacific Northwest Booksellers award winners: the "New York Times" best-selling "West of Here" and "The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving", now in film production. So smart readers will want to take this Alaskan cruise he's booked for widowed 79-year-old Harriet Chance, who suddenly realizes that her whole life has been based on a lie.

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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    Algonquin Books
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A Novel
Jonathan Evison
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