If you never read a book by Jonathan Evison then I feel sorry for you and I’m not just saying that because he has reviewed books on our website. Mr. Evison has written four books and each one them is a book you would proudly display on a bookcase or keep forever on your ereader.
He is not one of those authors who after their first or second book just fizzles out and you realize they didn’t really have much to say after their first few books. Some would call them “one hit wonders.” Mr. Evison is not a one hit wonder, in fact he just keeps getting better and better. His latest novel is a sweet book about getting old. It’s called This is Your Life, Harriet Chance and you guessed it, it’s all about a woman named Harriet Chance.
The chapters all begin with the age Harriet is at the moment. It seesaws from past to present throughout the novel. Kate Atkinson used this technique with her latest novel with mixed results. Mr. Evison succeeds wickedly. The novel opens with Harriet at age zero and ends with her at 78. The story is about Harriet and her deceased husband Bernard who she see sees and talks to throughout. She also has two grown children Caroline and Skip.
Her late husband, she discovers, has left her an unused cruise for two to Alaska. She decides to go with her dear friend Mildred even though her daughter and son think it’s a bad idea.
It is not the kind of thing they would expect from boring old Harriet Chance. When it’s time for the cruise she receives a letter from her friend Mildred that literally blows the lid off the life she thought she had. She does not buckle with the news and goes on the cruise solo.
Harriet decides it’s finally time to live her life and not be what other people expect of her. The only issue is her age, which is 78. She has some pretty funny adventures while she is on the board the ship and confronts her husband’s spirit to ask him about their life together. Once she deals with that issue, a health issue starts to inhibit Harriet.
This is where the novel takes a serious turn and contemplates the purpose and meaning of our lives. Harriet Chance didn’t take a chance on her life and played it safe. This cruise has opened up her life to what she could have been and done. It’s obviously too late for major things to happen but this cruise is her start.
Even though this fact is true you still root for Harriet to have a last chance of finally being who she really wants to be. Because Mr. Evison is such a talented writer he allows her to have a real life ending and the reader a chance to change our lives and live them in the present, not by what others expect from us, or wait for things to happen to us. Live your life, dear reader!