cover image This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!

Jonathan Evison. Algonquin, $25.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-61620-261-3

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. (Sept.)