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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 (4211 )
5 star
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4.5 (3736 )
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Annie 11-11-12
    Annie 11-11-12 Member Since 2014

    Rather adorable.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
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    80
    26
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    4
    18
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    "Are you kidding me!"

    Put down the crayons and just listen for heavens sake!
    Not since "The Help" and the "The Power of one" have I loved a book this much.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brianna Portland, OR, USA 11-09-12
    Brianna Portland, OR, USA 11-09-12 Member Since 2004
    ratings
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    247
    2
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    "Beautiful, moving portrait of a family"
    If you could sum up The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry in three words, what would they be?

    Charming, engrossing, life-like characters


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

    No spoilers! Read it. The whole book is memorable.


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

    I had not listened to Jim Broadent before but now I can't wait to see him in the film version of "Cloud Atlas." He was terrific!


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

    Harold, obviously. So real, so British, so tragic and yet hopeful.


    Any additional comments?

    I don't feel as if I will ever forget Harold and Maureen and David and Queenie. They are part of me now.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janet McCordsville, IN, United States 11-08-12
    Janet McCordsville, IN, United States 11-08-12 Member Since 2015
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    2
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    Performance
    Story
    "Unexpected"
    What did you love best about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry?

    I really liked the fact that Harold learned so much from doing something so simple for someone else.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Harold was my favorite character because he continually surprised himself during his entire journey but yet he never stopped looking at himself. He wanted to stop and it was painful but he would unconciously reach out to someone to keep him going.


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

    I believe his accent and just that British way of sounding like nothing is shocking even when it the most outragous thing that could happen.


    If you could rename The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, what would you call it?

    I think that was a great title.


    Any additional comments?

    I started to listen and thought I would be bored to tears but found a "diamond in the rough."

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leah 11-08-12
    Leah 11-08-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    4
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    "what more can be said...beautiful!"

    Thoughtful and heatrbreaking with true moments of joy. Well done Rachel Joyce. Beautiful story writing. Perfect character development. I fell in love with all of these people and didn't want it to end. I may have to start my own pilgrimage!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Megan Encinitas, CA, United States 11-07-12
    Megan Encinitas, CA, United States 11-07-12 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    22
    9
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    "Go Harold!"
    Would you listen to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry again? Why?

    Yes. Without redundancy the author leads the reader on a journey of everyday commonalities through the honest eyes of a realistically normal guy. By illustrating perseverance the author succeeded in inspiring the reader. It just felt good to hear a feel-good story. Additionally, the narrator is about as easy to listen to as it gets.


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

    Harold finally revealing the status of his son. And, Maureen realizing Harold's true involvement as a father.


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

    First experience. Stellar performance.


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

    Both!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Visalia, CA USA 11-06-12
    Amazon Customer Visalia, CA USA 11-06-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Only read if you're ready for a good cry"

    This book will be at the top of my list of the best books I've ever read (listened to). The writing was lyrical and evocative and Jim Broadbent's narration was perfect. Since my husband and I are basically the same age as the main characters in the novel and our marriage about as long (but luckily without the silence and tragedy) I found so many parts to be particularly poignant.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    California Jane Torrance, CA USA 11-05-12
    California Jane Torrance, CA USA 11-05-12 Member Since 2014

    California Jane

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    2
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    "Audio book better than the book . . . probably."
    Would you listen to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry again? Why?

    Jim Broadbent, the narrator, is fantastic. His English accent adds to the story plot, which takes place in England. It's interesting to hear how UK people pronounce their words. For example, Mr. Broadbent, uses the word "mow-bile" for cell phone. I have listened to many audiobooks while traveling in my car, and Mr. Broadbent is by far the best.


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

    Rex, the next door neighbor, is mentally pictured with Jim Broadbent's rough, slow voice of an older man.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Keira United States 11-05-12
    Keira United States 11-05-12 Member Since 2012
    ratings
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    11
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    "much deeper than I expected"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    yes, it was a great story about personal growth. It also had a really good twist that I wasn't expecting


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

    I don't want to give anything away.


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

    No


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    RubberSoul79 Dallas, TX 11-05-12
    RubberSoul79 Dallas, TX 11-05-12
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "Bittersweet but good"
    Would you listen to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry again? Why?

    I never read or listen to anything twice, so no.


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

    He is a WONDERFUL narrator. Really enjoyed him.


    If you could rename The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, what would you call it?

    It's a perfect name.


    Any additional comments?

    Is it sad, yes. Is it inspirational, yes in its own way. Does it help you see things in your own life a little clearer... yes.. especially if you are married.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paula Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 11-05-12
    Paula Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 11-05-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Refreshing!"

    I loved the theme of letting go of the "stuff" we accumulate everyday in our lives. This book made me feel the freedom and pleasure derived from being unencumbered, and even gave me the urge to declutter my house! Harold's journey took so many twists and turns in so many ways - the feelings that emerged, the people he met, and the physical route from city to countryside. They were interwoven so well that I felt compelled to keep reading just as Harold needed to keep walking. One of the best reads I've had in a long time! The narrator did a great job all around using a different voice for each character to make them all really come alive. I would recommend this book to anyone. In fact, I think I'm going to buy a hard copy for my husband!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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