Harriet Chance sets sail on an ill-conceived Alaskan cruise only to discover that she’s been living the past sixty years of her life under entirely false pretenses. Harriet is forced to confront the truth about pivotal events that changed the course of her life.
Slowly, and with admirable, dark precision, Evison lays Harriet bare. The lies, the dodges, the secrets and frustrated desires. With a touch of snark and a lashing of perfectly affected irony, he flenses her to the bone and, somehow, seems kind in doing it.
The consequences of such events in any particular life are of course enduring, but the prevalence of this vein of storytelling leaves us curiously impoverished. It is as if there can’t be such a thing as female failure without an alibi, and that strikes me as special pleading, if not condescension.
The one constant in This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! is Evison’s brutal honesty. It’s an unrelentingly dark book, belied by its whimsical cover, all pastel blue-greens and bright yellow, and by the excitable exclamation point tacked on the end of the title.