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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel | [Rachel Joyce]

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel

Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack is a letter addressed to Harold from a woman he hasn't seen or heard from in 20 years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye. Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, heads to the corner mailbox. But then Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential - Why did I love this book so much? The answer to that question is as complicated as trying to explain why you love a particular person. Because that’s what this book is – an entire life encapsulated and explored through the thoughts and encounters of a man on an unexpected journey. The story slowly grows and unfolds until the full picture is before you – blooming and beautiful and completely irreplaceable. Jim Broadbent’s narration is so utterly real it breaks your heart. — Emily

Publisher's Summary

Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack of quotidian minutiae is a letter addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn't seen or heard from in 20 years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye.

Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, heads to the corner mailbox. But then, as happens in the very best works of fiction, Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. And thus begins the unlikely pilgrimage at the heart of Rachel Joyce's remarkable debut. Harold Fry is determined to walk 600 miles from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed because, he believes, as long as he walks, Queenie Hennessey will live.

Still in his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold embarks on his urgent quest across the countryside. Along the way he meets one fascinating character after another, each of whom unlocks his long-dormant spirit and sense of promise. Memories of his first dance with Maureen, his wedding day, his joy in fatherhood, come rushing back to him - allowing him to also reconcile the losses and the regrets. As for Maureen, she finds herself missing Harold for the first time in years.

And then there is the unfinished business with Queenie Hennessy.

A novel of unsentimental 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.

©2012 Rachel Joyce (P)2012 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

"When it seems almost too late, Harold Fry opens his battered heart and lets the world rush in. This funny, poignant story about an ordinary man on an extraordinary journey moved and inspired me." (Nancy Horan, author of Loving Frank)

"There's tremendous heart in this debut novel by Rachel Joyce, as she probes questions that are as simple as they are profound: Can we begin to live again, and live truly, as ourselves, even in middle age, when all seems ruined? Can we believe in hope when hope seems to have abandoned us? I found myself laughing through tears, rooting for Harold at every step of his journey. I'm still rooting for him." (Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife)

"Marvelous! I held my breath at his every blister and cramp, and felt as if by turning the pages, I might help his impossible quest succeed." (Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (4007 )
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Performance
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  •  
    bridget 08-30-12
    bridget 08-30-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A generation Xer loved this book"

    What can I say about Harold. He captures your heart and reminds me of the days of my grandparents and their stiff upper lip and absurd way of thinking of putting one foot in front of the other. I was captivated by the story even the pilgrim nonsense that is a brilliant way to show how social media is usually wrong and sensational seeking. The reader was excellent. Loved the book - it was GOOD and I haven't really listened to a GOOD book in awhile. Ignore the nonsense that people will post about it being a spiritual book and comparing it to this and that. It is a great story told by an engaging story teller.

    39 of 47 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Taryn Suffern, NY, United States 06-05-13
    Taryn Suffern, NY, United States 06-05-13 Member Since 2006

    Addicted to Audible!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1475
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    "My favorite book of 2013 so far!"

    I first read this book several months ago and fell in love with it. I talked my bookclub into reading it and decided to try the audio version since I didnt have time to reread. I was enchanted with the audioversion, the reader is absolutely the perfect HAROLD!!! The story unfolds slowly just like Harold's walk was painstakingly slow. Each encounter Harold has with the random strangers he meets, changes him and awakens his awareness about his life, his relationships, his mistakes and finally he finds his redemption. I have highly recommended this book to my friends and most have enjoyed it as much as I did. I think it's one of my favorites of the year!

    30 of 36 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mel USA 08-05-12
    Mel USA 08-05-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9642
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    ""An Ordinary Man Doing Something Extraordinary..."

    in an ordinary way."
    ...so Joyce describes her own book, a story she was originally writting for a BBC radio broadcast, while experiencing her own father suffering from cancer. [And in about a month from this review, the author will find out whether or not Harold Fry will continue his journey from the Man Booker long 12 to the Man Booker Short List.] Joyce obviously is a very talented writer. She has a sparse style and the ability to write descriptive and poetic sentences with simple ordinary words that have an almost child-like purity. Whether or not the book is short-listed, I expect to see many beautiful reads from this new author.

    "It seemed to Harold that he had been waiting all his life to walk. He no longer knew how far he had come, but only that he was going forward."

    As reviewers have said, this is beautifuly written and the journey the listener embarks on with the very buttoned-up Harold is both heart warming and heart wrenching. I see the brilliance in Harold Fry, but have to admit it wasn't one that I couldn't wait to get back to each time I had to pause; I didn't look forward to continuing the journey--it was somber. But, maybe that was the brilliance -- that it made me feel so sad and ache-y inside, so much like Harold. The characters that join in the pilgrimage add some levity, but seem to serve more as vehicles just to move along Harold's melancholic reminiscing. I'm glad I finished and I recommend, but this isn't a story for everyone. I couldn't help but be moved by "Night Music's" review; she mentioned that she was an elderly woman and found that "looking back can be very disheartening," and she couldn't finish listening. I wish I could tell her to continue the journey--there is redemption. Towards the end, Harold questions whether his journey was just folley and gets this simply put lovely reply,

    "You got up and you did something. And if trying to find a way when you don't even know if you can get there isn't a small miracle; then I don't know what is."

    Lovely and bittersweet; not ordinary at all.


    45 of 55 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ronna 04-07-13
    Ronna 04-07-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Unusual , but wonderfully philosophical story!"

    The philosophical bent of this National Bestseller had me hooked from the start. Harold and Maureen were NOT living the dream life of retired couples. Harold was boarded and boarding. Maureen complained about anything and everything, with Harold being at fault for all her disappointments.

    When a seemingly innocuous letter came for Harold, everything began to change. An old work colleague, Queenie Hennessy, has written Harold to tell him she is dying of cancer. Harold hasn't seen her, nor really thought about her in 20 years. BUT, he feels the need to write her a short consoling note. Thus the "pilgrimage" begins. In taking his letter to the mailbox, he runs into a young girl who tells a tale of "just believing". Harold then decides that if her walks the 500 miles, to hand deliver his letter to Queenie, she will keep living.

    During his miles and miles of walking, he meets many different people. Some want to just talk with him and give a helping hand. Some, become nuisances in many different ways. Through all of this, Harold thinks back on his life and gains different perspectives of it's meaning for him and Maureen.

    I agree with all the many fans who have made this book a bestseller, and book award nominee. The writing style is engaging and very compelling. Harold's perspective on his life, reads almost like a journal, with life lessons and questions intertwined. There is a great deal of sadness in this book, but many lessons learned in the backward perspective Harold attains from his very unusual walking trip. Different, but wonderful book!!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Author Abbie Johnson Taylor Sheridan, WY, United States 11-09-12
    Author Abbie Johnson Taylor Sheridan, WY, United States 11-09-12 Member Since 2012
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    "An Unlikely Pilgrimage"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry to be better than the print version?

    Being visually impaired, I've never read the print version, but the audio edition is definitely high quality.


    What other book might you compare The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry to and why?

    I could compare this book to others I've read about people who walk across the United States for one reason or another, but most of those books are true stories. However, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is just as believable.


    Which character – as performed by Jim Broadbent – was your favorite?

    I liked the way this narrator portrayed Harold, Maureen, and Rex, but he did an excellent job of making all characters come alive, giving each his/her own distinct voice.


    If you could rename The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, what would you call it?

    I can't imagine a more suitable title for this book. It relates well to the story.


    Any additional comments?

    I just lost my husband who was partially paralyzed as a result of two strokes. I had been caring for him at home for the past six years. Over a month ago, I had to move him to a nursing home because he was losing strength, and it was getting harder and harder to lift him. When I first started this book, I wondered for a fleeting moment if when his nurse called to tell me he was declining and it was time to think about end of life care, what if instead of using the paratransit service, I walked the one mile from my home to Sheridan Manor? It wouldn't have been much of a pilgrimage, but would it have saved him? This was highly unlikely, just as it wasn't likely that Harold walking the six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to Berwick-upon-Tweed wouldn't have saved Queenie, but hope springs eternal, right? I don't know why I chos to read this book at this time, but it gave me a new prespective on life and death. To learn more about this book and its author, please visit my blog.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bobbi Victor, ID, United States 09-13-12
    Bobbi Victor, ID, United States 09-13-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "MOVING"

    I really liked this book. It touched on so many facets of life that are so easy to push under the carpet. It examines the secrets people hold inside of them, eat them up but feel hopeless to discuss them. While being blunt and honest with the problems of the characters the story also fills you with compassion and hope. Harold and Maureen come to life and you become very close to them. You cheer Harold on - laugh at some of his encounters and shake your head at others. It is a thought provoking, tender, moving book that stays with you long after you're finished with it.

    11 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alan 09-06-12
    Alan 09-06-12 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A journey of a life"
    Where does The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This book is one of the best books I have listened to in many years.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry?

    The entire book was wonderful but the ending was so unexpected ( Iwill say no more)


    Which character – as performed by Jim Broadbent – was your favorite?

    Harold Fry, the book is his story


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    A film about healing.


    Any additional comments?

    I cannot wait for the movie. If properly done it will be an award winner.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bill 08-28-12
    Bill 08-28-12 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Five stars is too low for this work"
    Where does The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    As good as any, better than most. Charming, intelligent, gentle, wide cast of a plot, superior language, psychology of characterization throughout


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry?

    The whole thing is memorable. I'll point to Rex saying to Maureen," Did you think I didn't notice something was wrong?"


    What does Jim Broadbent bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Life, timing, emphasis here, less there, voices of the gentle and the crude, the mature and the green


    Any additional comments?

    Do yourself a favor and listen attentively.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gail Redmond, Washington, United States 08-19-12
    Gail Redmond, Washington, United States 08-19-12 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "I didn't want the book to end!"

    Harold's pilgrimage to Queenie is life-changing and told with unspeakable beauty and clarity. You grow to love Harold and Maureen because they are so broken like all of us. The narrator is absolutely perfect. He takes his time narrating to allow you the time to really hear the incredible descriptions of the journey and the people Harold meets along the way. Don't miss this book as it is truly wonderful.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John New Berlin, WI, United States 08-09-12
    John New Berlin, WI, United States 08-09-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "This one moves into one of my top Five Favorites"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Masterfully written and well performed. I enjoyed every minute of this book. The story unfolded like the English countryside.


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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