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)
Rachel - probably not.
Jim - sure.
Heavy on sentimentality - it felt like a long, earnest walk, where everything is dripping with heartfeltness and meaningfulness.
Teach only love, for that is what you are.
No, there are too many amazing books to listen to.
This story rang true for me on many levels. How we can live with someone and really not know them, mostly because they do not know themselves and we do not know ourselves. And how we are all capable of so much more than we realize, and capable of surprising ourselves in the process of learning that.
I love a British accent.
Harold and his journey of self discovery and endurance and letting go.
This is a lovely book, especially for those with relationship difficulties.
I savored every minute of this book. Because of the rich prose and enchanting narration, I felt invested in Harold's journey, and was willing to follow no matter where it led him. There are no big thrills in this book; it is a character study, and the writing is exquisite. Overall, it is a wonderful way to look at the world, a reminder to be fully present, even in ordinary things. The ending was deeply satisfying, even if it was a bit predictable.
I was looking for a change of pace from the gory action thrillers I had recently listened to and found this to be just what I needed. A different premise, a touching and thought provoking story. Highly recommended.
I enjoyed the overall story, but it dragged far too long. My mind would wonder and Harold had only slogged along a few more miles.... But the intended message was a good one, and a reminder to all of us that we can rise above our own human frailties.
I would just like to admit a little British accent never hurts , so my perception of the narrator was as appreciative listener. As far as the story, it was such an introspective of so many lives which, in later years, look back and wonder what went wrong. The weight of trying something totally out of one's comfort zone,especially when combined with the overwhelming need to help someone else was very powerful. It certainly made me take a look at my 40 years of marriage and I found myself trying to make sure I do not fall into the ways of Maureen. The silence that had crept into Harold and Maureen's marriage was a catalyst for Harold to begin, on the spur of the moment, to imagine he could save a friend he hadn't seen in years from terminal cancer. Of course, the unusual way he does it is the basis for the story. I listened to the story on my commute and it made for an enjoyable daily trip for the last few weeks.
One of the most memorable moments to me was when Harold came face to face with the truth about what happened to David. It made many things clear, while lending a sense of purpose to what Harold was trying to accomplish.
I liked the subtle change in tone when reading other character pieces without actually affecting different voices. His timbre was perfect for the book.
My daughter was listening to this book at the same time I was. She was not enjoying it as much as me as she said she wanted more plot driven stories. I had to tell her that , being greatly appreciative of plot, this book was an unusual fit for me, but I found this character driven story just perfect , probably because I am of an age where I am going through some of the angst and am certain my husband is also reviewing how we got to where we are. Not that we have drifted that far apart,but I can certainly see how the small things have grown to take up too much of our lives. Harold Frye has given me a reason to reflect and make an attempt to find that magic we had so many years ago.
I listened to it twice because I found it so entertaining!
The story is good as long as you don't think too long about how not prepared this man was for what he did. I wish I could start my own pilgrimage but I'd train and buy proper equipment first!
I am not easily discouraged, but found that this book was a downer. It seemed to go on and on and on... and at the end I couldn't wait for it to end.
How many times have we heard not to judge a book by its cover. Usually I take it to mean not to just buy a book based on its cover but in the case of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry it was actually the books cover art that first drew me to the story. Judging based solely on the cover I was expecting a whimsical journey of a retiree.
However this novel is far more then first meets the high. The development of not only Harold Fry but also the support cast is incredible for this length of a novel. I really did find myself carrying for more then just Harold on his walk, but also his wife, son, and friends. I have to say I am super impressed with Rachel Joyce in this novel. It jumps right into Harold's journey but then allows you to really enjoy the simpler things in his walk that most writers might skip over.
Even more endearing about this novel is Jim Broadbent impeccable job reading the book. I instantly associated Jim with Harold and it just felt like a natural read of the book. Bravo Mr. Broadbent.
My only complain was the ending of the book which felt a little more mushy/predictable then the rest of the novel let on to be. Otherwise I think its one of the most enjoyable reads I have had in 2012.
This is a good book. Enjoyed the characters and story line.
If I told it would ruin the story line for the next reader.
I love listening to his voice.
Harold, to explore his feeling of connection with other people on his journey.
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