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)
Journey to forgiveness.
Common themes shared by people of a certain age - as a reader, I appreciated that.
The last scene.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
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.
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.
Harold. He was a man of his word and conscientious.
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.
When Maureen finally opened up with the neighbor, Rex, and they too found friendship.
Loved the insightfulness the author brought to this story. A very good story!
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.
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.
Yes, we'll narrated and good 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.
The proper accent and apparent age range of Harold.
Nothing extreme. I did laugh, but not cry, although it was very heartwarming.
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!
I love Harry Potter, Joshlyn Jackson, Kate Morton and just losing myself in a good story.
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.
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.
He creates the perfect English gentleman.
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.
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.
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.
I liked Harrold, naturally. But I also liked how he developed Maureens role.
When Harold was asking for his son, after he hit "rock bottom".
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.
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