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This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!
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This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!

3.4  ·  Rating details ·  6,709 Ratings  ·  1,159 Reviews
“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
Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 31st 2016 by Algonquin Books (first published September 8th 2015)
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Mimi This is one of my favorite books of 2015- and I've read quite a few. To be able to laugh out loud at certain parts of a book, and get teary-eyed at…moreThis is one of my favorite books of 2015- and I've read quite a few. To be able to laugh out loud at certain parts of a book, and get teary-eyed at other parts means, for me, a wonderful read. There is so much to discuss about this book. I am planning to give it to several people this year as a Christmas gift.(less)
Cher The CTO referred to in this book is the Chief Transitional Officer handling Bernard Chance's transition, per page 14.
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Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
I've read one book of Jonathan Evison's previously The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving and I loved it. So I hit that request button in a hurry when I saw this one come up on Netgalley.

This is the story of Harriet Chance. Told almost like a talk show host is hosting it for our viewing pleasure/displeasure. (There actually was a show like this on a hundred years ago-I barely remember it and I'm ancient)
Chicago commercial photographers

Harriet's story is told through flash backs and present time. Her present time is shortly af
Angela M
Apr 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

It's one of those books where I knew from the first page it was going to be a good one because there was just something about the writing and something about Harriet Chance that drew me in . Moving back and forth from the present to various times in her 79 years , part of the book is narrated by someone we never know who speaks directly to Harriet. I know I'm dating myself but I do remember watching the TV show This is Your Life. I may have been around ten years old, but I can still see the show
Diane S ☔
Apr 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is your review, Harriet Chance. No, way too corny but this book is written in that kind of style. An unknown narrator taking us back and forth and through the present of Harriet's life. Like the TV show that I kind of remember my mom watching. This book is laugh out loud funny at time and incredibly sad at others. Don't think I will ever forget Harriet and the lobster. You have too read this to understand and experience.

Kept asking myself what I would do if I found out the things Harriet di
Julie Christine
As a kid, I could see the Sherwood Arms (aka Sherwood Village) from our kitchen window. No, not in the Sarah Palin sense of seeing it from the kitchen window. I mean, literally. The retirement community sat on the other side of abandoned cow pastures and the ruin of an old dairy barn. Right there on 5th avenue, in the village of Sequim (pronounced Skwim, in case you're wondering), tucked in the rain shadow of the Olympic Peninsula. It's still there, you know. So is my childhood home. But that em ...more
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4000-books
Poor Harriet. What a messed up, mixed up life she led. And what awful people she led it with, including her husband, her parents, her 'uncle', her best friend and her children. All of them! Abysmal people.
Regardless of this the book is utterly charming and a most enjoyable read. Funny too more often than not although there are some heart breaking moments as well. I have not done an Alaskan cruise yet but this story put it on my bucket list! I am sure I could get a lot more out of it than Harriet
Larry H
Apr 13, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
I'd rate this 3.5 stars.

Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

At 79 years old, perhaps Harriet Chance hasn't quite lived the life she imagined. Her husband Bernard has been dead nearly two years but he has recently been showing up again (and not just when she's alone), and their encounters seem very real, despite the fact that everyone else thinks she's losing her marbles. When she finds out that just before his death, Bernard
Rebecca Foster
In Evison’s fourth novel, a widow in her seventies relives the ups and downs of her life while on an Alaskan cruise to scatter her husband’s ashes. Chapters alternate between a third-person account of the cruise and a second-person survey of Harriet’s past, delivered in the format of TV’s This Is Your Life. The narration is fresh and effective because the gradual revelations undermine Harriet’s elderly persona in such surprising ways. She is an out-of-the-ordinary but believable protagonist who, ...more
This is a bittersweet book, a heartbreaker really, though humorous too, written in a special sort of way. Like this: ‘Look at you Harriet Chance, so diligent, so fastidious in your attention to detail!’
And… ‘Well Harriet, it’s come to this… You’ve lost control of your life. Or Bernard’s life, anyway. Probably a blessing, don’t you think? Really, it ought to come as a relief, when you get right down to it…At least they’re not trying to take your house. At least they’re not coming for you…’.
It’s l
Jennifer Lane
What's the Point?

I found this novel to be well-written but depressing and meaningless. I was craving humor and some sort of purpose in this examination of a woman's life, and those cravings remain unsatisfied. But I did finish the book, which says something about the easy writing style.

Harriet Chance is a 79-year-0ld widow who learns her husband booked an Alaskan cruise for them before his death. She takes the cruise alone, much to the consternation of her grown son and daughter. Her health is f
Apr 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A "this is your life" to 78 yr old Harriett, who lost her husband some months prior. This goes back and forth at different stages of Harriet's life and her relationships with family and others. Sometimes sad, sometimes funny.
Catherine McKenzie
This is a great book.
Clif Hostetler
Jan 28, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
This novel reviews the life of a seventy-eight-year-old woman named Harriet Chance. It is a life filled with many regrets and disappointments. As the book progresses additional layers of difficult history are revealed.

She was born ten years too early to benefit from the liberating effects of the book Feminine Mystic (published 1963) so she dutifully gave up a budding career and got married. Her enduring patience managed to allow the marriage to survive in spite of her husband's difficult person
Mar 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a review of an advanced reader copy.

Harriet Chance is 78 years old, widowed, and about to learn something that puts her entire life into question. After receiving a strange phone call informing her that her deceased husband had won a cruise but never cashed in the voucher (why did she not know this?), she decides to take he cruise with a good friend. Her friend backs out, but Harriet is undeterred and goes it alone. The cruise gets off to a shaky start with an unfortunate crab leg incide
Christopher Swann
Jul 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I love about Jonathan Evison's stories is his absolute commitment to the possibility of redemption. His stories are all about men and women who screw up and then march on, determined to try to do something to make up for whatever they've done. They break hearts, including their own, and then fumble for the Crazy Glue. How Evison gets us to both cry and laugh at them is a mystery, but it's one I like trying to solve. No matter how different each of his books is from his others, that narrativ ...more
Sep 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I almost didn’t request this book because there seems to be a plethora of books these past few years of older women looking back across their lives. I tried several and didn’t like them, at all. But the reviews for this book, from some of my Goodreads friends were just so outstanding I gave it a shot.

This was a wonderful, shining, inventive, wonderfully written gift of a book. How a male author, a first time read of his for me, can tell a story in 2nd and 3rd person of a young and old woman show
Oct 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is just something so charming about this book that I just couldn't put it down! 78-year-old Harriet discovers that her husband had won an Alaskan cruise before his passing and, with an expiration date looming on the prize, she decides to take that cruise with her best friend. When her best friend unexpectedly bails on her, Harriet finds herself on a boat out to sea, but she isn't alone thanks to her husband's visits.

We grow to know Harriet in a unique way as chapters alternate with a, "Th
May 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-reads
Another Goodreads reviewer comments about her "Evison scale" and on my Evison scale, All About Lulu is the gold standard for me, at 4.5 and I don't know how another book will ever touch that one, but This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! comes close.

This is classic Evison--touching and thought-provoking without being sappy or sentimental, or on the flip side, too heavy. Evison never seems to take himself or his characters too seriously, even while broaching serious and life-altering subjects.

I do
Jul 30, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
If, as the author says in his afterward, he intended to write a sympathetic version of the pre feminist/silent generation woman, than this book is a travesty. Although the protagonist comes off as a victim in part, she seems largely responsible for her mistakes, even as she is being victimized as an adult. Worse, the This is Your Life vintage TV show framework enables a satirical and contemptuous tone that is nothing less than cruel. Unlike its advertisement, this novel is way lacking in compass ...more
Betsy Robinson
Like a mashup of the old TV series This Is Your Life and Topper with Frederik Backman's Britt-Marie Was Here, this novel was predictable but fun. A smart-alecky omniscient writer narrator tells us and 78-year-old Harriet Chance how she got to where she is.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. The problem wasn't that I guessed all the plot revelations way before they happened. And it wasn't the dour character of Harriet, who felt familiar and flawed, which is something I usually love. The
Jul 15, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What is it lately about male authors who channel elderly females -- Stewart O’Nan’s Emily Alone, Brian Morton’s Florence Gordon and now Jonathan Evison’s This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance.

I was going to write this one off as yet another in a quest of understanding women in the twilight of their lives. The serio-comedic, deceptively breezy tone uses the American Reality documentary, This Is Your Life, as its overriding conceit. In that show, which aired on NBC in the 1950s, the host surprises a
Oct 12, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
When I picked up this book at the library, I thought it would be sort of a coming of age story for a retired woman. I thought Harriet would make some realizations about her life, and then get to make changes to make her "golden years" more enjoyable. While she did seem to realize many things - none of them good - there wasn't much more to the book. I liked that the story jumped throughout her life, though I found the narrator kind of annoying - especially in the flashbacks. And while I liked tha ...more
Shawn Mooney
I gave this one a try to fulfill the "book with an exclamation point In the title" category for the Eclectic Readers podcast reading challenge – however, neither the prose nor the story was holding my interest whatsoever. Bailed less than a fifth of the way in. I guess I have not many more than two choices left: Dr. Seuss or William Faulkner… :-)

Oh for the love of book club!!! This absurd little novel defies definition. Somewhere between Experimental Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Magical Wannabe Realism, and Comedy of the Tragic Absurd is the best I can do to categorize it. And let me just say, it was one hot mess!!!

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy an occasional novel that dabbles outside the box of norm. Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders: A Novel is one that comes to mind: an enjoyable,creatively imagined divergent novel embracing dys
Greg Zimmerman
Jun 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(First appeared at

Normally, I'd avoid a novel about a 78-year-old woman like, well, a real-life 78-year-old woman in a grocery store line. But a novel about a 78-year-old woman written by Jonathan Evison? I'm all in! And this is great.

Harriet Chance has lived a long and fruitful life, and soon after Bernard, her husband of fifty-plus years, dies, she learns he'd won an Alaska cruise, which he'd never collected, at a silent auction. She decides YOLO, and
Nov 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-fiction
3.75 stars: “While the days unfold, one after the other, and the numbers all move in one direction, our lives are not linear, Harriet. We are the sum of moments and reflections, actions and decisions, triumphs, failures, and yearnings, all of it held together, inexplicable, miraculously, really, by memory and association.”

Jonathan Evison has penned a clever, entertaining, perceptive novel about a woman who plods through life without much introspection. She’s like Judith Bunker: devoted, dutiful,
There is darkness in the overall theme of “This is Your Life, Harriet Chance” but the overall feeling is much lighter than the story of Harriet Chance’s journey. I didn’t really mind the fact that Evison has his characters jumping back and forth across time throughout, but I did notice it at first.

Harriet is a sweet, very likeable woman who, to family and friends, can’t seem to “let go” of her deceased husband, Bernie. The kids, her friends, everyone it seems thinks Harriet is going crazy, but
Oct 09, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
3.5 stars - It was really good.

Started off a little too cute and charming, but about 1/3 of the way through, things got real. Life rarely unfolds the way we expect...

Wish the ending would not have been so rushed and that you could have seen how things were resolved between the main character and her friend, as well as the aftermath of several twists with her children.
Favorite Quote: If we’ve learned one thing digging up all these old bones, dusting the
Sep 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book's superficially light tone hides a dark heart. While this lighter tone and the narrative style may not appeal to every one, I think Harriet Chance has the potential to introduce Evison's work to a much larger audience than he has seen previously.
Sep 25, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I guess I'm in the minority of not enjoying this at all. I thought the author seemed mean spirited in his portrayal of Harriet. I found it to be depressing.
Aug 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Each chapter of this book opens with the voice of a narrator who talks to Harriet Chance, thereby telling us of her current life, and sometimes her past. This voice is sometimes sarcastic, sometimes playful, and at times almost demeaning in it's attitude toward Harriet, and it's assessment of her. I found this third person narrator off-putting, as I had a fondness for Harriet as she seems to be, even at 79 years of age, still trying to figure out her life, and the role of those she has loved, in ...more
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Jonathan Evison is an American writer best known for his debut novel All About Lulu published in 2008, which won critical acclaim, including the Washington State Book Award. In 2009, Evison was awarded a Richard Buckley Fellowship from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation. A second novel, West of Here, will be released in February 2011 from Algonquin. Editor Chuck Adams (Water for Elephants, A Rel ...more
More about Jonathan Evison...

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“But you can see it, Harriet, a look in his eyes, an alertness, as if somewhere behind the disease, behind the scar tissue, behind the fog of disassociation, Bernard is all there, he's just lost his ability to communicate. Like somebody turned off his volume. You're certain he can see everything that is transpiring with crystal clarity, and he can't do a goddamn thing about it.” 3 likes
“It’s a cruel process, aging. Take my advice, dear, maintain your independence as long as possible.” 2 likes
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