- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 6 hours and 45 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
- Audible.com Release Date: September 8, 2015
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English
- ASIN: B013I80YNI
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance Audiobook – Unabridged
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I like the writing, which comes across as light and a bit flippant, while describing the ups and downs (lots of downs) of the life of Harriet Chance. Harriet is an elderly woman, recently widowed from a man it sounds like she should have divorced many years earlier. She is shocked to find her husband had purchased (or won? I forget – I’m not as old as Harriet, but I still have senior moments) an Alaskan cruise before his death. This is very unlike him. Still, she plans on going with her long-time best friend, who changes her mind at the last minute. We eventually learn the truth about that, as well.
The book goes back and forth from the present time to various times/places in Harriet’s past, reminiscent of the old (really old) TV show, This Is Your Life. We see who Harriet was and what she wanted to be and how life got in the way. It got me completely wrapped up in her life and her welfare, and I cared very deeply about her.
I bought this book, "This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!," thinking it's a light-hearted, inspirational story about an elderly woman who comes into her own after her husband dies and she takes a cruise. Besides the rollicking reviews, there's that exclamation point at the end of the title. :) And the book cover leads you to believe this, with it's light blue waves and yellow ship.
Instead, a game-show type narrator dips in and out of Harriet's life, with chapters from childhood to senior citizen alternating with present-day Harriet, who discovers that, before he died, her husband, Bernard, had booked an Alaskan cruise for two. She decides to take the trip, but soon learns a disturbing secret, drinks too much and becomes a worry for the crew. So her estranged daughter joins her on the trip.
As the book unfolded, I kept waiting for an arc to build. Instead, the emcee takes us back and forth through Harriet's life, and there's a constant unveiling of awful happenings and bitter truths. I found myself pushing through the backstory and more interested in present-day Harriet. There was something off-putting about the narrator's enthusiastic retelling of Harriet's disappointing life - was that irony? sarcasm? - and I was so sure redemption and happiness were finally in the cards.
Perhaps this is real life, no true order, not especially fair. But I wish I had gone into the book knowing this was its premise - that it's a serious book, disguised as a jaunty read. Or "in" a jaunty read. "This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!" is beautifully written, and held my interest. I have no problem leaving a book unfinished and I read this one to the end. But it left me depressed, and feeling like I had been fooled.
As much as I liked his last, "Revised Fundamentals", "Harriet Chance" is Evison's best novel to date. (I hate how easy he makes it all seem.) This is one of those books people will tell friends they stayed up late to finish. A lesser novelist would have made this all about Harriet. But by the end (no spoilers here) I was as moved by Harriet's daughter, Caroline. Maybe moreso. Caroline desperately wants to connect with her mother and at the same time (like many of us) wonders how much she might be just like her.
Crack open your favorite brew or pour a glass of your favorite wine and enjoy the read. It's rare when a book makes you want to celebrate every screwed up character in it.
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