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)
Little bit crazy but prefer the term eccentric. I am a recluse by nature so I live for my books and the friends I find within their pages.
In this wonderful tale your emotions will by tested to their full range. Funny, sad, insightful and best of all honest. The narrator takes you on the journey with Harold and you feel evrything he is going through with empathy and love for the man. I had a crazy week but found time everyday to find out what Harold was up to and it made my week bearable.
Thank you Racheal, Jim and Harold you enriched my life with your story.
Only did audio, but in my experience with such a good reader there is no comparison
I wait for books that offer a unique story with beautiful writing that just takes you in and doesn't let go
Highly recommended. Beautiful book.
I admit, I read the synopsis and ordered the book. Then, I lost sight of it in the mass of other impulse books I tend to order. I am so glad that I finally migrated back to Harold Fry. As we approach a certain age, midlife or perhaps beyond, we face thoughts and regrets about things we have done unto others. Harold Fry's crisis relates to an incident in his work setting -- he allowed another to take responsibility for something he had done. She is now dying of cancer and he decides to walk across Britain as a sign of repentance and to ask for forgiveness. It is certainly a LARGE gesture, but given what this character has faced in life, it is understandable. I think many of us would want to opt-out of life for a while and do something out of character. Harold does that. He attracts attention from others and disrupts his wife's quiet existence.
The writing is direct, thoughtful and even believable, given the basic premise. I appreciated the story's unfolding and the burdens the main character has carried with during his life. It is filled with anticipation of a reunion that becomes much more than a determined meeting between two former colleagues.
This book reflects regret, atonement, unwanted attention, distance and coming together. I truly appreciated its subject and imagine that it will provoke discussion among other readers.
Marriage and Family Therapist
Sometimes magical thinking works. Harold sets off to save a friend in a way that makes his wife question his sanity, but his quirky quest leads to more being saved than either could have imagined. Sweet, funny, moving. Loved it.
This one pulls you in. Starting simply you are pulled into a lifetime of reflection on choices made, heartaches suffered....the tapestry that made Harold and his wife. I aches with them, I cried with them, I laughed with them, and I felt their lives. Don't miss this one
I enjoyed the writing, the story and the performance in almost equal measure. A section of the book dragged somewhat and seemed out of place (I won't say which to avoid a spoiler) but the book was well worth the listen. I thought the author did an excellent job of teasing out the story of Harold's relationships and portraying how we all suppress "unpleasantness" in our lives. It was also genuinely touching without being maudlin.
A wonderful piece. You may feel it starts off slowly but relax and go with it! Soon you will not want to eat lunch or go to bed.
I wasn't prepared for this story. But as in most good stories, that made it even better.
I quickly identified with Harold Fry, as I am a father of an only son - and my parents' only son. And about 2/3 of the way through, I thought I had it figured out. But I found myself crying uncontrollably, while driving around town listening to the last few chapters.
This was truly an unlikely, but memorable pilgrimage for Harold and for me.
The narrator of this book makes it such a joy to listen to that I couldn't put it down!
This rates among the top books I've listened to over the past year. Jim Broadbents narration is perfect. Harold's pilgramage is an end of life journey of remembrance and self searching that is at once touching and poignant. And though Harold leaves his wife Maureen at home as he sets off unexpectantly on foot to a friend dying of cancer, she herself embarks upon her own journey of remembrance that exposes her own empty cold life. This unlikely pilgrimage leads both Harold and Maureen to a new beginnning that neither of them imagined. This beautiful story merges lives of emptiness and pain to a beautiful conclusion. Do not hestitate. This one is worth your time.
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