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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 (4208 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Christine Great Falls, VA, United States 05-29-13
    Christine Great Falls, VA, United States 05-29-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Spontaneous and Reflective"
    Where does The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Well done audiobook. The chapter character transitions between Harold, Queenie and Maurine keeps the storyline interesting.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Harold is my favorite character who discovers his strengths through the hearts and minds of others along his journey across England.


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

    Broadbent brings life to the thoughts and memories of the main characters, especially Harold's life review.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Arnold 05-27-13
    Arnold 05-27-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Charming and thoughtful"

    This is a charming and understated book that works extremely well on many levels. The whimsical conceit and cover art of an eccentric englishman walking across the country to save an old friend belies a thought provoking examination of how we relate to each other, what people need and what is really important in life and relationships. The simple sounding plot is full of twists and surprises, and every time you think you know what is coming the author surprises you with something more interesting. The narration matches the quality of the story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Happy Customer ATLANTA, GA, United States 05-27-13
    Happy Customer ATLANTA, GA, United States 05-27-13
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    1
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    "simpley a pleasure"
    What made the experience of listening to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry the most enjoyable?

    A wonderful story read by Jim Broadbent. What could be better............


    What about Jim Broadbent’s performance did you like?

    Mr. Broadbent was the perfect choice for this story.


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

    If they do make a film I hope Mr. Broadbent plays the role of Harold.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff 05-27-13
    Jeff 05-27-13

    Long time married couple who share this subscription and find it enriches our conversations. We listen while commuting, cooking, working out, and often drifting off to sleep!

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    "Harold Fry-unlikely pilgrim but moving protagonist"
    Would you listen to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry again? Why?

    This is a book I would listen to again. Harold's quiet reflection and kindness drew me in. Like when in the presence of someone who speaks quietly, I found myself leaning in t to catch the meaning. I enjoyed the way Harold's walk stripped him to his bare essentials.


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

    There is a type of British novel that I really like. Ages ago I read several Barbara Pym novels and this one reminded me of those. Stories about real people who find life overwhelming and yet manage to "get on." I like the quiet way these stories unfold allowing me to enjoy them at my own pace and they give me time to reflect on my own life along the way.


    Have you listened to any of Jim Broadbent’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Jim Broadbent's reading was absolutely perfect for this story. He was kind to each of the characters and got inside each one.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    The book made me reflect on what's important in life. What happens when we try to ignore pain and how powerful acceptance is. I found the book very hopeful.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Juxtaprose SEATTLE, WA, United States 05-23-13
    Juxtaprose SEATTLE, WA, United States 05-23-13 Member Since 2014
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    "Wonderful story, excellent narration"

    I was captivated by this book -- both the story and the narration. The author weaves many elements of humanity into the pilgrimage.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Seif 05-19-13
    Seif 05-19-13 Member Since 2011

    Audible changed my reading life!

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    32
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "We should all take a pilgrimage."
    What made the experience of listening to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry the most enjoyable?

    The novel is universal. One can relate to every sentence written.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Harold. I am he.


    What about Jim Broadbent’s performance did you like?

    Jim Broadbent mad the experience extremely enjoyable. Of all the audiobooks I have listened to, he ranks number one as a performer. I searched Audible for other books narrated by him, but I unfortunately didn't find any (apart from children's novels). What a shame.


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

    Everyone's journey.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mema NY, United States 05-10-13
    Mema NY, United States 05-10-13 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
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    "What a wonderful journey"
    Any additional comments?

    I am so glad I listened to this book. I really enjoyed it. The story was engaging, memorable and very touching. As Harold walks, he and his wife Maureen reconnect emotionally after years of unhappiness. The narration was wonderful! I would definitely like to read more by this author.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bonnie Flagstaff, AZ, United States 05-09-13
    Bonnie Flagstaff, AZ, United States 05-09-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "Profound writing and Spectacular Performance!"
    What did you love best about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry?

    This brilliant story of a man, a marriage, a family- includes something with which every person can identify. It sheds light on our humanity and growth as individuals in ways I've never quite recognized in the same way through other fiction.


    Who was the most memorable character of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and why?

    Jim Broadbent inhabited the character of Harold Fry in such as way as to actually make the story more like a one-man play. I have not read the book in print, but I would not want to now- the performance was so perfect, I certainly could not have "heard" the book as well in my own mind, and will never read it without feeling the performance of this gifted reader!


    Any additional comments?

    Rachel Joyce writes with a light hand and an open heart. She brings tears of recognition to our eyes. She opens us to truths about our own lives in the same way that Harold Fry recognizes truths about himself and his own life. We often do not recognize those truths as events unfold, but later in life, looking back, we see that our lives have mattered in the only way that counts- in our effects upon others.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol Alleyton, TX, United States 05-08-13
    Carol Alleyton, TX, United States 05-08-13 Member Since 2015
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    "Oh, the joy of Jim Broadbent !"
    Would you listen to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry again? Why?

    No better narrator for this lovely story than Jim Broadbent. Will definitely look for more of Rachel Joyce's work. She definitely knows her characters well.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Alexandria, VA, United States 05-04-13
    Karen Alexandria, VA, United States 05-04-13 Member Since 2012
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    2
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    Performance
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    "Beautifully told and read"

    I bought this book because it was on the essentials. What a lovely surprise. It's a quiet, tender book, yet it kept me gripped throughout. Nothing is a simple as it sems on the surface, and there are twists and surprises, some funny, some sad. You will feel like you walked every step with him. Loved loved loved it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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