This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!

Written by Jonathan Evison
Review by Diane Scott Lewis

Harriet Chance, a widow living in Washington State in 2015, is surprised to learn that her late husband, Bernard, has won a cruise to Alaska. At 78, Harriet has little interest in traveling, but she asks her best friend to accompany her. Her best friend backs out at the last minute, and Harriet ends up going alone. A letter, given to her by this friend, reveals Harriet’s husband was not who she thought he was. Her life was a lie. She’s devastated. Her daughter, with whom she has a contentious relationship, joins her on the cruise, and more deceptions are revealed.

A tragedy in her childhood and further bad choices have made Harriet the person she is, always giving but never receiving. A failed career plus a dull marriage to a controlling man, a man she must care for when he slips into Alzheimer’s disease, are her main trials.

The story bounces around in time, showing Harriet’s life at different intervals, as the cruise progresses through the beauty of Alaska’s Inside Passage.The scenes in the past are narrated by a game show-like host who often scolds Harriet for her actions – not a choice I would have made in structure, but it is fresh. I found it odd that her lawyer father, who had such plans for Harriet, was agreeable with her marrying a maintenance man.

The author’s prose, which kept me absorbed in her life, and the slight humor prevent the story from becoming too maudlin, but I wished for more happiness for Harriet.