book review (with cover mani!): this is your life, harriet chance!

You know that glorious moment when a book grabs you so hard from the jacket description that you start imagining the story before you've read a single page? Well that's what happened when I first saw THIS IS YOUR LIFE, HARRIET CHANCE!

I mean, how can you not instantly love a title that ends with an exclamation point? What a high energy start! I don't know one other book that has an exclamation point and that sucks! Because if there's an exclamation point in the title, the book has to be amazing, right?!

Non-spoiler alert: The title's exclamation point is totally appropriate!

I love an excuse to get crafty. Yay for YouTube origami tutorials! Haha!

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

With her husband Bernard now in the grave, seventy-nine-year-old Harriet Chance sets sail on an ill-conceived Alaskan cruise only to discover through a series of revelations that she’s been living the past sixty years of her life under entirely false pretenses. There, amid the buffets and lounge singers, between the imagined appearance of her late husband and the very real arrival of her estranged daughter midway through the cruise, Harriet is forced to take a long look back, confronting the truth about pivotal events that changed the course of her life.  

Jonathan Evison—bestselling author of West of HereThe Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, and All About Lulu—has crafted a bighearted novel with a supremely endearing heroine at its center. Through Harriet, he paints a bittersweet portrait of a postmodern everywoman with great warmth, humanity, and humor. Part dysfunctional love story, part poignant exploration of the mother/daughter relationship, nothing is what it seems in this tale of acceptance, reexamination, forgiveness, and, ultimately, healing. It is sure to appeal to admirers of Evison’s previous work, as well as fans of such writers as Meg Wolitzer, Junot Diaz, and Karen Joy Fowler.

Harriet Chance is a crotchety, passive-aggressive widow. Suffice it to say, she's hard to like, but this book doesn't progress in a linear fashion, so shortly after being introduced to present-day Harriet, the story goes back to specific, defining moments in Harriet's life. And that's where THIS IS YOUR LIFE shines. Because underneath Harriet's prickly exterior is a woman whose life didn't turn out the way she'd imagined. She's a survivor and in order to keep going, she packed her hopes and dreams in a suitcase and then dropped said suitcase into a bottomless pit, never to be seen again. So really, it's no big surprise that, nearing her eighties, Harriet isn't a joy to be around.

But Jennie, you may be thinking, I thought you said this book had high energy! Remember all the exclamation points?!

And to that, I'd say, yes! The very unique and delightfully quirky element of this book is the way Evison used those energy-inducing punctuation marks. At the start of each flashback chapter, the first sentence ends in an exclamation point, and the POV changes from third-person to second-person--a literary choice that often falls flat for me--but here, it worked. Like, really worked. I was describing THIS IS YOUR LIFE, HARRIET CHANCE! to a friend and she said it reminded her of how a gameshow is introduced and you know what? She was absolutely right. Each flashback chapter is kind of like, Come on down to the showcase showdown!, complete with flashing lights and possibly a whaling siren. So whenever I reached a flashback chapter, I immediately felt a surge of optimistic enthusiasm. And that's pretty freaking cool because Harriet's life has some serious low points. Let me reiterate that: somehow, the upbeat introductions and turns of phrase were perfectly appropriate, even when dealing with more mature subject matter. I'm 70% sure Evison is a secret sorcerer, because he broke many-a-writing rules in this treasure. 

Also, and this observation is slightly out of nowhere, but the exclamation points reminded me of that Seinfeld episode where Elaine decided to excessively add exclamation points to a manuscript she was editing at Pendant Publishing, and anything that makes me think of Seinfeld is a super good thing.

I'm nearing the end of my review now, and all I've mentioned is a repressed main character and perfect use of exclamation points, but there's still so much more about THIS IS YOUR LIFE, HARRIET CHANCE!, that you need to know. 

Because yes, the book explores Harriet's life, teasing readers with the hope that she'll somehow turn it all around, or at least understand how she became who she is, but there's also a healthy serving of mystery when decisions of days gone past are finally examined and explored. And with Harriet's estranged daughter on board with her, sharing a room the size of a walk-in-closet, they have no choice but to confront the hamper of dirty laundry they've been lugging around for so long.

I giggled, teared up, and ultimately felt uplifted by this book, so if you're looking for an engaging, heartwarming family saga told with gusto and spunky prose, then add THIS IS YOUR LIFE, HARRIET CHANCE! to your TBR list. Or better yet, just go pick up a copy, because then you'll get to have this fun cover on your bookshelf! It's like the awesomeness never stops!!


For this mani, I used:

China Glaze - Too Yacht To Handle, At Vase Value, White On White, and Boho Blues
Julep - Amy, Dawn, and Sam
Seche Vite - Quick Dry topcoat 
Tools - piCure pOlish brush no.10, thin straight striping tape from What's Up Nails

And for more, non-book-related manis, check out my IG page! (@jennieshaw)

1 comment:

  1. Your do an awesome job recreating these book cover.



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