Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Adult Book Club Pick: This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!
by Jonathan Evison
Algonquin Books
304 pages
ISBN: 9781616202613

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! is about 78 year old Harriet Chance and the small and big things she has faced in her life. Harriet, daughter of a prominent attorney, has all the trappings of a successful childhood. She lives a cultured life of country club tennis and debutante balls. Her father pushes her to study law--to follow in his footsteps. Perhaps if Harriet were born a few decades later, this may have happened. Poor Harriet, born too soon! Women still earning less than half a man's salary and certainly not able to complete law school, men chuckling behind their backs. Harriet finds herself trapped in the traditional role of wife and mother.

The novel is told by a sometimes annoying omniscient narrator. Through his or her(?) insight, Harriet's life is examined under a glaring microscope. Human beings are complicated and all humans have secrets. Maybe the truth becomes clouded over the years. Memories fade. Lies are told. If enough lies are told enough times, lies become the truth. Hopping around over seven decades of a woman's life is sometimes a jarring experience. Jonathan Evison must have planned it that way. However off-putting it is, it works. As Harriet's world comes undone, the decades change. Suddenly we are back with seven year old Harriet or teen Harriet waiting for her date.

Full of heart and compassion, full of woe and sorrow, full of unfinished business and untold secrets, this is one novel that will make you think. This story will resonate with many baby boomers. It is the story of America and past eras where hope was high, expectations soared, the economy was booming and America was still number one.

The story is told as a series of scenes--think back to television's "This Is Your Life." Evison's writing is incomparable but Harriet's story, although probably the story of many 78 year old widows, is weighty. This is life under scrutiny.

Recommended for book clubs. This is not necessarily a "feel good" book. Looking back at someone's past with all its broken promises and scattered dreams is taxing at times.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)

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