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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 (3919 )
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Mary 10-04-12
    Mary 10-04-12

    a book lover

    HELPFUL VOTES
    22
    ratings
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    100
    18
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    "Enjoyable audiobook"
    If you could sum up The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry in three words, what would they be?

    Journey to forgiveness.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Common themes shared by people of a certain age - as a reader, I appreciated that.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The last scene.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emily CArmel, IN, United States 10-04-12
    Emily CArmel, IN, United States 10-04-12 Member Since 2011
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    19
    4
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    Performance
    Story
    "Moving and Memorable"
    What made the experience of listening to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry the most enjoyable?

    I loved the complexity of the characters. Flawed and disturbed but with humor and a realism that is easy to relate to; even across a generation and an ocean.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jon D. Kitner 10-03-12

    Who is accomplished enough to claim a critic's eye? Who is as masterful as those who have written for the rest of us to read? When I was a young man, I believed I knew what was better than something else. Now, I am in awe of everything. Now I realize that the older I get, the less I know.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Random Act of Kindness"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Harold Fry is Everyman, at least everyman who is 65 years old. I am 65 years old and I can certainly identify with Harold, his regrets, his wistfulness, his determination to make an account of himself with one late, great act of compassion and gratitude. Rachel Joyce deeply perceives the delicate disequilibrium of a man who is slipping down into his own mortality, burdened with regret for his lack of courage and responsibility. Harold Fry is not a loser, but he is a man who put his life in a box not to be touched or opened. His box is filled with regret for the loss of his son and for his not taking responsibility for his anger at his job in a brewery and the cost that was paid by a coworker who protected his folly. And so suddenly,on a little walk to post a letter, Harold decides to go thank the worker who all these years later is in hospice dying. Harold phones the hospice center and tells the answering nurse to have Queenie keep living because he, Harold the Called, Harold the Determined will walk across England to to see her and thank her for her act of sacrifice and character. His journey, like all such books becomes a collection of encounters with various persons who inspire, assist, heal, commiserate, join-up or just hang around to witness and participate in a growing news event. And like the rag tassels fluttering on the end of a kite tail in a shifting wind, his devoted wife trys to understand and assist this huge change in her beloved Harold.
    The narration by Jim Broadbent is perfectly nuanced for such a tender and gentle story. His usung various intonations and phrasing for different characters keeps the narrative fresh and vibrant.
    Of course, when Harold dos arrive at the hospice facility, he finds Queenie beyond the pale, unable to communicate, suffering and dying and at the total mercy of her caregivers. She did keep living. But the things to be said, the touch of once caring are all too late. Nevertheless, Harold had made a statement by his walk of all those many miles. He honored Queenie and himself. I'd like to think that Queenie felt his presence. The love you save is the love you send. By the end of this pilgrimage, Harold was closer to God. And in the end that indwelling God is the coming and going of our souls.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 10-02-12
    ratings
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    19
    3
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    Story
    "I cried all the way through this book!"

    What a wonderful, wonderful book. The story and the narration by the superb actor Jim Broadbent brought Harold Fry to life, and I felt as though I were walking in his shoes through every town.
    I have had my reservations about listening to audio books because the narrator can color the writing to such a degree that it can enhance or subtract from the writing. One of the joys of READING a book is that one gets to imagine that person, that voice, and all the other elements.
    In this case, I could not imagine it any better than this.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barry Sioux Falls, South Dakota, United States 10-02-12
    Barry Sioux Falls, South Dakota, United States 10-02-12 Member Since 2014
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    2
    2
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    "Makes you think about how you live your life"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry to be better than the print version?

    Don't know


    What other book might you compare The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry to and why?

    Wild by Cheryl Strayed


    Have you listened to any of Jim Broadbent’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Yes, I particularly enjoyed the self discovery and personal reflection that Harold experienced as he made his journey. It makes one think about the choices we make as we live our own life. I also loved watching his marital relation evolve as he evolved. The book has an improbable start and a sweet ending.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Teresa Burns, TN, United States 10-02-12
    Teresa Burns, TN, United States 10-02-12 Member Since 2015
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    1
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    "Story with insight!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes. Moving story of mature adults finding out that they can change. Through the journey, we do find that life is in the journey, and we all have much in common.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Harold. He was a man of his word and conscientious.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    I liked the part when he found a caring friend with the foreign doctor. I felt that she was the first person he began to open up with, and see that others too have their burdens to bear.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    When Maureen finally opened up with the neighbor, Rex, and they too found friendship.


    Any additional comments?

    Loved the insightfulness the author brought to this story. A very good story!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patty United States 10-01-12
    Patty United States 10-01-12 Member Since 2010
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    "I loved this book!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Absolutely. The story was very involving and the characters were extremely well drawn. It was lovely reading about people at this stage in their lives who seem to become reflective for the first time. I found it very poignant, sad and hopeful all at once.


    What about Jim Broadbent’s performance did you like?

    I liked everything about his performance. He's a first-rate actor so he can tell a story and become the character he's reading.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amy 10-01-12
    Amy 10-01-12
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    2
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    Performance
    Story
    "Almost put it down...glad I didn't"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, we'll narrated and good story.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The subtle evolving nature of it that at first was too subtle and I got a little bored/let down, but I stuck with it (not hard to do actually) and am glad I did.


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

    The proper accent and apparent age range of Harold.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Nothing extreme. I did laugh, but not cry, although it was very heartwarming.


    Any additional comments?

    I highly recommend this book for people who like less action but more human nature-type stories. Really good and I miss the book now that I'm done!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judith McCabe Goose Creek, SC, United States 10-01-12
    Judith McCabe Goose Creek, SC, United States 10-01-12 Member Since 2012

    I love Harry Potter, Joshlyn Jackson, Kate Morton and just losing myself in a good story.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Heartwarming"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry to be better than the print version?

    I did not read the print version, but the performance was stellar. The narrarator put so much heart and feel into Harold and all the other characters.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I loved that nothing was predictable. I loved that Harold and Maureen learned so many lessons along the way and that I felt transformed after listening to this.


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

    He creates the perfect English gentleman.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I bawled like a baby. I was making appetizers for a party when it got to the end and had to sit down I was crying so hard.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Monika Linden, Germany 10-01-12
    Monika Linden, Germany 10-01-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    0
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    33
    1
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    "Unexpected Find"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry to be better than the print version?

    Have not read anything by the author yet, so I can not compare.Jim Broadbent is a very good narrator though, I don't think that I would have liked the printed version as much.Especially listening to the British accent gives the story the character that can not be got by reading the story as a non-Brit.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I liked the unpretentious storyline. This book is about a character that doesn't want to make waves in his life. And the narration is just like that.


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

    I liked Harrold, naturally. But I also liked how he developed Maureens role.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    When Harold was asking for his son, after he hit "rock bottom".


    Any additional comments?

    I am giving this book high marks for it's original story of a life lived not to the fullest. And I liked that the story is not one of self-pitty but a life story that is told without drama. No one is being blamed for how Harold lived his life the way he did, or why Maureen was acting the way she developed her behaviour over the years.The good part is,that we can swing our lives around even after we are retired, and sometimes it just takes as long to take a good look at ourselves.All it takes is one step, and a lot more others, just like Harold went from the corner mail box to the other end of Britain.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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