I doubt many people remember the This Is Your Life! show from the Golden Age of television. Once a week a guest, often a celebrity, was tricked to appear on a stage in front of a live audience. The host would start narrating the person’s life and present flashbacks. Guest appearances were made by family, friends and colleagues.
This clearly was the inspiration for Jonathan Evison’s new book, with spry 79-year-old Harriet Chance as the guest. The snarky narrator talks to Harriet directly in some chapters, and takes her back to key times in her life. The story moves back and forth from the narrator to normal third person, which took some getting used to.
While Harriet is adjusting as a widow, she is baffled to find out that her husband won an Alaskan cruise in a raffle. She decides to take the cruise and invites her best friend to come along. When the friend backs out at the last minute, Harriet is determined to go anyway. During her journey she discovers that her husband had kept a huge secret from her. When her estranged daughter shows up on the ship, Harriet is forced to face their turbulent relationship between the buffet meals and lounge acts.
Sometimes hilarious, sometimes sad, this bittersweet story looks at the challenges that come with marriage and parenting. This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! will appeal to readers who liked another book involving cruises, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? By Maria Semple.