This is Your Life Harriet Chance
Expected publication: September 8th 2015 by Algonquin Books
Hardcover, 304 pages
Source: e-ARC from NetGalley
With her husband Bernard two years 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.
Stopped at 86%
Oh Harriet, how I wanted to love your story. I was so excited based on the synopsis. That cover is so great! The story – so depressing. Harriet’s story is told in the format of the long ago “This is your life…” format and we move back and forth throughout to get all the stages of Harriet’s life. This took a bit of getting used to, but I was ok with it. Harriet’s children think she’s falling into dementia because she is talking to the ghost of her husband Bernard. I liked Bernard’s appearances! I appreciate that he was trying to stick around to help Harriet deal with some hard news as he sounded like a real jerk in his life. I didn’t quite get the 2 short chapters with Bernard by some ghostly supervisor being scolded for making the efforts to communicate with Harriet. Either make Bernard an active character or don’t. Let him just be a ghost – or flesh out his story line in the in between.
Where I had to put this book down was at the point when Harriet is looking back on her childhood molestation by a friend of the family. Not my favorite topic but I would have gotten through it for a good book – what made me so mad that I shut off my kindle was our narrator suggesting 9 year-old Harriet should have done more to stop the abuse. Yes, Harriet was a child perfectly poised for a predator – eager for approval and compliant with adults – was there a need to blame her though? Was the narrator Harriet herself going through her guilt and shame? Maybe – but I am honestly too angry to keep reading to find out. I thought about finishing – but it would be reading through a hate lens and that’s not fun at all. On to the next book!
Let Me Explain You, Annie Liontas
Published July 14th 2015 by Scribner
Hardcover, 352 pages
Source: e-ARC from NetGalley
LET ME EXPLAIN YOU begins with a letter: Stavros Stavros Mavrakis-Greek immigrant, proud owner of the Gala Diner, having had a premonition of death and believing he has just ten days left to live, sends an email to his estranged ex-wife and three grown daughters in which he lays out his last wishes for each of them. He then sets about preparing for his final hours. With varying degrees of laughter and scorn, his family and friends dismiss his behavior as nothing more than a plea for attention, a mid-life crisis of sorts, but when Stavros disappears without explanation, those closest to him-particularly his eldest daughters Stavroula and Litza-are forced to confront the possibility of his death and the realities of their loss.
This was a weird book for me. It times it felt like there were two different books happening. We have Stavros who had a dream – and then found a goat – and now he thinks his death is imminent. I found Stavros dislikeable and really kind of offensive at times. We also have his three adult daughters who all seem pretty unhappy in their own lives. They’re angry on top of unhappiness thanks to the extra drama that Stavros brings with his email of last wishes. Liontas takes us back and forth in time from the present and through Stavros’ marriages and the dysfunctional family stages. These family relationships really just made me sad and confused as well and I had to put this book aside. Part of my inability to read this one could have been my own mindset with life outside of books, but I haven’t picked Let Me Explain You up in at least 3 weeks and I’m not missing it. Maybe someday I’ll come across this again and finish the book – but it’s not for me right now.
If you’ve read this one and enjoyed it I’d love to hear more about why! Anyone?
Thank you Algonquin Books and to Scribner and NetGally for these advance copies in exchange for an honest opinion.