The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

There’s lots of buzz about this book at the moment, and I thought it might be a good “take away” for holidays. I was right. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce fit the bill perfectly. Harold and his wife Maureen live in Kingsbridge in the south of England, existing side by side with Harold’s silence, and Maureen’s nagging and over zealous house cleaning, part of their everyday life. One morning, the recently retired Harold receives a letter from a former co-worker he hasn’t had any contact with for 20 years. Queenie Hennessy is in a hospice in Berwick-Upon-Tweed, some 600 miles north of Harold, and she is writing to say goodbye. Harold feels compelled to write back and sets out for a quick walk to post his letter. A chance encounter with a young girl convinces Harold that instead of dropping his letter in the mail he must deliver his message in person. He believes that as long as he keeps walking Queenie will live. So, wearing only his yachting shoes and a light coat, Harold embarks upon the walk of all walks to Berwick-Upon-Tweed. I must admit that I’ve never looked at a map in the front of a book as much as I did when I was reading this. I needed to follow his progress bit by bit. Maureen thinks he’s gone bonkers, and decides to have a chat with her doctor about Harold’s behavior. The subsequent pages about her attempt to register with the receptionist, then her actual visit with a substitute intern provided some of the funniest bits in the book I think. Along the way Harold meets one fascinating character after another, and as you can imagine has ample time to relive many of the moments and feelings buried deep in his heart that he’s just as soon forget.  Just when I thought the book was getting a bit “hokey” Rachel pulls it back on track. Though I have to admit that I didn’t like the ending at all. But, that said, it’s a great summer read with lots of humour, tender moments, and insight, and it’s a wonderful first novel from Rachel Joyce.

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