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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 (3907 )
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    lucy 02-22-13
    lucy 02-22-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "a wonderful look at life"

    What a journey, the author weaves a tale that goes thru our humanity in creative intimate encounters. I loved it, this is one i would listen to again, just to relish the depth of it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth Ottawa, ON, Canada 02-21-13
    Elizabeth Ottawa, ON, Canada 02-21-13

    Book are life enriching

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    5
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    "you just keep routing for Harold no matter what"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would recommend this book because it is about an ordinary man who did something extraordinary.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I think many readers can relate to Harold's journey and if not - are intrigued by it.


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

    I really liked the main character


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

    I'd perhaps like to go on a walking trip with the main character as opposed to having dinner.


    Any additional comments?

    Just that it was a tale about an ordinary person who did an extraordinary thing and that we are all of us capable of something extraordinary....

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. McRitchie Iowa, United States 02-21-13
    K. McRitchie Iowa, United States 02-21-13 Member Since 2009

    Lifelong Learner

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    "Everyone will like Harold!"

    Overall this was a good story, it dragged in parts, but I kept engaged, even cried a few times along with Harold. I think it was strange when Harold had all of those followers walking with him, but I guess it was a way to have many different characters, often contrasting with Harold. (human frailty at its best) The walk, which was therapeutic for so many people, even those not walking, like Harold's wife, caused me to cheer along with everyone, hoping Harold would make it to the end in time.

    The writing was very descriptive and detailed, and allowed the reader to experience what Harold was seeing and doing. The narration was appropriate and done very well. This is the kind of easy book that requires nothing from the reader, but to tag along and enjoy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alan Albuquerque, NM, United States 02-21-13
    Alan Albuquerque, NM, United States 02-21-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Unlikely? yes; Wonderful? absolutely"

    There are few books that keep me up all night because I'd rather listen than sleep. Hello Harold Fry!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Readandknit 02-16-13
    Readandknit 02-16-13

    readingaddict

    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    "A tale to walk to."
    What did you love best about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry?

    I listened as I walked, to the novel as read by Jim Broadbent. Great narrator. on the whole, I found the book very well- written. I got bogged down about 2/3 of the way through, with the other pilgrims who joined Harold, and am contemplating whether the tale wouldn't have been just as strong without their addition.


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

    The mundane minutiae of life and Harold's journey that the author captured, while not losing sight of the meanings of Harold's very long walk into the land of the living.


    What about Jim Broadbent’s performance did you like?

    His voice, pacing, the whole performance - completely engaging.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joyce 02-14-13
    Joyce 02-14-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Entertaining, sad, funny, and emotional."
    What did you like best about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry? What did you like least?

    The people and places bring back memories of my travel through England. I would not have been as iinterested if I had not been there and could picture the people and places that were discribed in the book. I am a psychologist and found the personalities familiar. It was slow at times, but not enough to put the book aside. The story was funny, sad, and inspireing. I would not recommend it to everyone, but would recommed it greatly to some people. It is not the normal that I am used to, but, a great break from the regular books I am interested in.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    Maybe a little less listing of all of the many flowers and open land observed by Harold. I felt that those areas were slowing down the story


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

    A very interesting determination of Harold's that would not be typical of his caricature.


    Do you think The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    I always want more of a book I have enjoyed! I would get a follow-up if it was available.


    Any additional comments?

    Worth giving it a try for the avid reader.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    january huntersville, NC, United States 02-12-13
    january huntersville, NC, United States 02-12-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good book, but too long"

    I've never been to England before, but the details of Harold's walk were so detailed that I could follow his journey on Google Maps. It was a great way to enjoy this book. I loved the complicated relationships, even though I guessed the big twist about an hour into the book. It still didn't ruin the moment it was revealed towards the end. I say towards the end because it wasn't really close enough for the end. Do you remember those wavy plot lines that your literature teacher drew on the chalkboard in grade school? The plot builds up slowly, slowly, slowly, until you reach the top of the mountain, then it quickly goes back down and the book ends. I have a feeling Miss Joyce never saw that wavy line, because after the big shocking twist, she continues to plod on. And on. And on. I found myself zoning out.

    Overall, however, this was a great book. And for her first book, outstanding! I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debra EAU CLAIRE, WI, United States 02-11-13
    Debra EAU CLAIRE, WI, United States 02-11-13 Member Since 2012
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    "You will enjoy this book"
    Would you listen to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry again? Why?

    Yes - definitely


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

    When you find out how many miles he actually walks.


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

    Loved the English accent


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    s WASHINGTON, DC, United States 02-11-13
    s WASHINGTON, DC, United States 02-11-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Fantastic Journey"
    What made the experience of listening to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry the most enjoyable?

    The narrator is excellent. The story is funny and moving and unexpected. Very unique experience.


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

    He has a way with character and distinguishing them. I could not choose a favorite among them. Harold was pitch perfect.


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

    Harold and Queeny. Harold because we follow the story mostly through his eyes, and his experience of the world and Queeny because she has a great spirit.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris Crabtree 02-04-13
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    "Top-notch performance and writing skill"
    What made the experience of listening to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry the most enjoyable?

    For me, the voice has to be great, and Jim's is. The story is so tightly written with some fantastic imagery.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Harold. He's almost the only character in the story.


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

    Rex.


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

    The convenience store girl.


    Any additional comments?

    The story moves a bit slow, with lots and lots of variation on the theme of all the things that went wrong in Henry's life and those of his family members. I found that I could skip whole chapters and not miss much plot.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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