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)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
I rarely give a book 5 stars, but this one captured me completely. I was on a bike ride, quietly crying behind my sunglasses as the end approached. Jim Broadbent's narration is nothing short of astounding.
Queenie Hennesey standing outside Harold Fry's house holding flowers and crying - the picture I imagined broke my heart
Rex, the neighbor. Quiet, kind concern all the way through
No - I had to think about it for a while before I continued. I absorbed more that way
Again - you MUST listen to this book!
I don't think I will listen to the entire book again, but there are parts I will revisit.
I can think of no comparable book I have ever read, nor enjoyed so thoroughly.
Jim Broadbent has an inside voice that allows him to effortlessly, simply become Harold. And then Maureen. And then Rex. The sister at Hospice was so convincing, I would have liked to have heard more from her.
I would take Harold. He learned so much on his travels, and we're about the same age. I have a wonderful, stable marriage, but I know many people who don't. Harold found himself on this voyage; found his own voice. Maureen found Harold, again, and in the process she also learned life-enhancing lessons by watching Harold walk to Queenie.
This book was my first audible book, and was so delightful that I have ordered aseveral more, and look forward to listening to them. Would it be too much if I were to say that I'm hooked on Audible books? Well, I am!
As Harold Fry begins his pilgramage, I assumed that the main point of this book would be the self-refection that Fry begins and his opportunity to "smell the roses" as he walks. The story becomes even more interesting as Fry figures out the past and why things turned out as they did. This is an interesting, unusual story that becomes more thought-provoking as it unfolds.
About 10 years ago my kids gave me an Audible account for my birthday. It was the best birthday present ever!
A man sets out on a very long and unplanned walk, to try to save a friend who is dying of cancer. It becomes an opportunity for him to reflect on, and come to terms, with the past. The author does a good job of revealing the events that brought Harold to this point in his life, slowly and gently and logically. I enjoyed what is essentially a sad story of loss and recovery.
The writing was beautiful, descriptive, small little phrases that made you say "wow!" The characters were so real, so human that you fell in love with them. The journey that Harold, and also his wife Maureen, experienced was life changing, life-affirming, inspiring. I even pulled up a Google map asking for directions from Kingsbridge to Berick-Upon-Tweed in England - what an amazing line! I think listening to it was better than reading. The reader was spectacular - you were right inside Harold's mind as he was going along, or Maureen's as she was coping with his departure. What a gift!
Not likely, because I seldom re-read (or re-listen). Besides, the thing I liked best about this book was the slow revelation of who the characters really are. The element of surprise would be missing.
The story was delightfully unpredictable. It was so very human.
Harold! By the time the story ended I just wanted to hug him.
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