The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

by Rachel Joyce

Overview: Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning a letter arrives, addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl, from a woman he hasn’t heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye. But before Harold mails off a quick reply, a chance encounter convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. In his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold Fry embarks on an urgent quest. Determined to walk six hundred miles to the hospice, Harold believes that as long as he walks, Queenie will live. A novel of charm, humor, and profound insight into the thoughts and feelings we all bury deep within our hearts, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry introduces Rachel Joyce as a wise—and utterly irresistible—storyteller.

Deanna Boe (09/03/18): Once more we have what I call an “ordinary” man who in his early sixties, recently retired, who discovers the world and people around him simply because he received a letter from an old friend. It was quite a shock since Harold had not seen her in over twenty years and she is dying. Queenie has written to thank him for his friendship all those years ago when they worked together. Harold drafts a quick reply and sets off to mail it. But, once he reaches the mailbox, he decides to go to the next one, which simply continues on until he is out of his village. Harold then discovers he likes walking and meeting people including one young lady who told how she knew someone who discovered what life was like by walking and looking around at all he could see. Harold thought – why couldn’t he do this and simply deliver the letter in person? So what if his village was at the southern tip of England and she was in Scotland! Rating: ****

Gail Reid (07/07/13): When Harold Fry retires from his job of 45 years at a British brewery, he doesn't seem to have much purpose. His longterm marriage to Maureen is lackluster and he is estranged from his only son, David. When a former colleague, gravely ill and dying from cancer, writes him from a hospice some 500 miles away, Harold recalls that Queenie was one of few people he could call a friend.

He sets out to mail her a letter and instead keeps walking. As long as he keeps walking to Queenie, Harold becomes convinced that she will not die. It is this unplanned walk by an unprepared traveler that makes up this unlikely pilgrimage. The characters that Harold meets along the way; the mistakes that occur; as well as the observations and lessons he learns about himself and his family are so well thought out and so keenly presented that it is easy to see Harold as a symbol of Everyman.

I enjoyed this book very much for the skillful writing and the author's ability to portray the deep introspection that an ordinary person is capable of feeling.
Rating: ****

Debbie Weiss (12/13/12): This is a delightfully sweet book about a retired British man who lives with his wife in their rural home. He receives a letter from a woman with whom he worked 20 years before and the letter states that she in in a hospice waiting to die. Harold gets this idea to walk to her, convinced that she will not die while he journeying to her.

The walk lasts many weeks and takes on a life of its own. Harold has lots of time to think about his life. He remembers his parents, of course, and he begins to analyze his relationship with his wife and son. This simple walk, a kind-hearted gesture, ends up changing Harold's life forever. I really enjoyed this book.
Rating: ****

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