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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 (3173 )
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Amazon Customer 01-07-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
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    15
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    "A Journey to Save a Life from Grief and Regret"

    Anyone who has ever looked back on his life and wished they had done things differently should be able to relate to Harold Fry -- a genuinely good, kind person who sometimes just doesn't think fast enough to do the right thing. The roots of Harold's pain and regret begin to reveal themselves as Harold sets off rather abruptly on a pilgrimage to save a friend, but really to save himself. The ups and downs of the journey seem so true to life, with Harold experiencing real highs and lows as he nears his destination.

    Jim Broadbent was absolutely the perfect narrator for this book. In my mind, he IS Harold Fry. I so hope this book is made into a movie, with Jim playing Harold.

    I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. It will probably make even the most stoic of readers shed a few tears, but it also has enough laughs to keep you going and to leave you hopeful that it's never too late to claim happiness in life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia Las Vegas, NV, United States 01-07-13
    Patricia Las Vegas, NV, United States 01-07-13 Member Since 2010

    Mother of 3, grandmother of 6, retired nurse and substance abuse counselor. Thrilled to have the time to read or listen to books again.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    80
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    "relatable for me"

    being in my 60's i can relate in many ways to Harold's journey as i find i am looking back way more than i am looking forward these days at both the good and the bad memories. his journey was completely cathartic for him and his wife and was the beginning of a healing that they both sorely needed. going with him on his journey during the listening of this book was both very sweet and very bitter but it makes for a very worth while listen. the author got so many things right that i was impressed.
    the narrator was one of the best i have ever listened to.
    a very very good book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MBW Philadelphia, PA, United States 01-06-13
    MBW Philadelphia, PA, United States 01-06-13 Member Since 2012
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    "A Trip Unexpected"

    I chose this story because I expected it to be a predictably funny tale about a married couple and a man on a journey meeting a witty and comical cast of characters. Turns out it was not predictable in the least and I must admit that throughout the first few chapters, I was disappointed by its somewhat serious tone. That being said, however, I am very glad that I chose to stay with it. The story is unique in that in continually stirs your curiosity while evoking a deep sense of empathy for its main characters. The underlining plot is somewhat complex and very real which can sometimes feel uncomfortable but none the less, carries you along as you take each step along side Harold. It is an endearing story about how our lives intertwine with others and give testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Additionally, the narration is well done.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ibe Boca Raton, FL, United States 01-03-13
    Ibe Boca Raton, FL, United States 01-03-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
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    "beautifully written"

    Just a pleasure to listen to this preformance. The story takes you with the character on his journey.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Beverly Victoria, British Columbia, Canada 01-02-13
    Beverly Victoria, British Columbia, Canada 01-02-13
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    2
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    "A book that can change your life"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I found the story to be very interesting with a lot of aspects that could be used to inspect and review my own life and see how I can do things differently to make a difference. I liked hearing the story from a couple of characters' viewpoints so that by the end I knew the history of both the husband's and the wife's life together.


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

    He has a lovely warm voice and brings compassion to a story that might be less sympathetic if read silently by oneself.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    E. Oakland, CA, United States 01-02-13
    E. Oakland, CA, United States 01-02-13 Member Since 2011

    Geological engineer and unabashed science fiction nut.

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    "Engaging and wonderful, if a bit depressing."

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The performance by Jim Broadbent was wonderful, he really brought a great authority and kindness to the story. I listened to this book while going on several long walks around my neighborhood, which was a great way to really get into the story. I've been almost exclusively listening to science fiction and fantasy for the past year, but picked out this title based on Audible's recommendations. It did not disappoint!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shannon 01-02-13
    Shannon 01-02-13
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    "Delightful!"

    I enjoy journey stories, and this one did not disappoint. The reader was so engaging, I got caught up in the events, as if I was there on the road with Harold. I found myself lamenting with him, advising him, wanting to protect him and cheering for him as he walked. There are moments of absolute sweetness and innocence juxtaposed by moments of anxiety, sadness and anger. Harold journeys toward his friend, yet he is also on a journey to himself, as his life slowly unfolds piece by piece along the way. Well written and engaging, I have recommended this book to family and friends.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathleen Gorham, ME, United States 01-02-13
    Kathleen Gorham, ME, United States 01-02-13 Member Since 2012
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    3
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    "It was good"
    What did you love best about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry?

    It was a good story and kept you engaged for the entire book.


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

    Harold Fry and his evolution throughout the story.


    Any additional comments?

    Good book - worth the time and effort.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. Cook 01-02-13
    C. Cook 01-02-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Delightful Journey"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry to be better than the print version?

    Jim Broadbent is superb, His acting skill shines as he strikes just the right balance of emotion and story telling. He brings Harold to life.


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

    The first time Harold arrives at the hospice.


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

    Harold, of course!


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

    Unlikely and delightful


    Any additional comments?

    This book is a wonderful combination of a great story, good writing, and skilled story telling. It draws you in in such a way that you can't wait to know what will happen next as you share the journey. At the same time, you reflect on your own life journey.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MasterMarquette Palm Springs, CA United States 12-30-12
    MasterMarquette Palm Springs, CA United States 12-30-12

    Karim Marquette

    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
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    "Stellar!!!"
    Would you listen to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry again? Why?

    Yes, I probably will listen to the book again. It is a wonderful story and charged with Jim Broadbent's first rate narration. This audio-book should be the standard which all narrators should emulate. First, Broadbent does not rush. He allows the listener a bit of time for certain sentences to sink in. This is especially important because of the incredibly beautiful prose of Joyce. Secondly, there are so many gorgeous metaphors created by the author. Sometimes there are metaphors in literature which are pretentious and forced. Joyce's metaphors seem to be like a normal adjective, some of them are pure genius.


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

    One of the great actors of the day, having performed in "Moulin Rouge" and "Iron Lady", Broadbent brings a very gifted actors' sensitivity to expression and language. As an audiobook, Broadbent has created something of a performance. His tone of voice are perfect for the story. Also, of course, I imagined Mr. Broadbent as the protagonist, which brought an even more wonderful experience to the novel.

    I sure hope he continues to narrate. Spectacular.


    If you could take any character from The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    The older "distinguished" gentleman Harold meets at a train station.


    Any additional comments?

    I do hope Joyce continues writing novels. When I googled her, I couldn't believe this was her first novel. I had just completed George Eliots' "Mill on the Floss", and in my humble opinion, Joyce's work was comparable. However, Joyce is contemporary. Her gentle style is simple, yet refined.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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