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
"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)
And I am so glad I did. What a wonderful book this is. Heartbreaking, funny, understated and yet a little fantastic.
Can't stop listening
There are layers here. There is beauty and there is a profound sense of what life is about. I haven't been so sad to finish a book in a long time. Perfect for a walk.
In the top 10
My favorite was when harold leaves the group and starts out on his own again.
This is not the type of book I normally listen to, but the description intrigued me. I was not disappointed. Harold is a quirky, but lovable character and the narrator does an excellent job of bringing him to life. I also enjoyed the wide range of other characters he encounters on his pilgrimage. The best thing about this book is that you begin to examine your own life and relationships just as Harold examines his. His emotional journey is as compelling as his physical journey, and you will enjoy traveling with him through both.
I couldn't put this one down and finished it in just a few days. There are so many themes running in this book- love, loyalty, regret, independence, and finding meaning in life, and though these can be heavy topics, they don't seem that way. It will make you think about the expectations you have for your own relationships- friends, spouse, children, neighbors and strangers. Can there be kindness left in humanity? The plot synopsis seemed so simple and yet this simple story of a man trying to reconnect with a friend has made me really think about all these topics. And it has a twist to boot! Listen to this one.
Well done audiobook. The chapter character transitions between Harold, Queenie and Maurine keeps the storyline interesting.
Harold is my favorite character who discovers his strengths through the hearts and minds of others along his journey across England.
Broadbent brings life to the thoughts and memories of the main characters, especially Harold's life review.
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.
A wonderful story read by Jim Broadbent. What could be better............
Mr. Broadbent was the perfect choice for this story.
If they do make a film I hope Mr. Broadbent plays the role of Harold.
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!
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.
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.
Jim Broadbent's reading was absolutely perfect for this story. He was kind to each of the characters and got inside each one.
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.
I was captivated by this book -- both the story and the narration. The author weaves many elements of humanity into the pilgrimage.
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