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)
5 stars - books that I will listen to again and again. 4 stars - books that I might listen to again someday. 3 stars - books that I probably won't listen to again. 2 stars - books that I know I will never listen to again. 1 star - books that I should have never listened to in the first place.
The story is somewhat unique and overall it is well written but I never felt that any of the characters held my attention from beginning to end. I also have to add that I found the ending predictable, anti-climatic and overly sentimental for my tastes. All this being said, Jim Broadbent's performance got me through this book to the very end - I honestly do not believe I would have finished this audible book if it weren't for this narrator's wonderful performance. Long story short, this type of emotionally sentimental story is NOT my cup of tea.
I don't know what made me select this story to listen to -- perhaps it was because it was narrated by Jim Broadbent. In any case, this was a good listen!
Jim Broadbent's voice gave just the right amount of feeling to Harold's voice. This book was similar to a Faulkner work, in that the more you listened, the more you "peeled the onion" and learned what happened to cause the "Pilgrimage".
The story wasn't one that you could say, "I've read/listened to something similar before." It was very unusual, and gave an excellent view of our current culture of celebrity.
It seemed an incredible premise -- leaving the house to mail a letter to a friend, and instead starting to walk over 300 miles to see that friend. But the issues Harold dealt while walking were what we'd expect. And it was interesting to hear his voice and thoughts go through changes as the miles passed.
The characters in this story were so well written. I could see the viewpoint of Harold, and that of his wife. I really felt for Harold throughout the story. I wanted him to succeed -- but I didn't want the story to end!
I highly recommend this book.
I am an avid "reader"- I prefer to listen to books rather than read them due to the added dimension added by the narrator.
I am not sure... I couldn't get into this one.
Winter of the World will be my next listen
I really tried, but could not get interested in this book. Too bad.
Character, humor, and drama witten with intelligence and heart, from fantasy to non-fiction is what I'm after in a great listen.
Yes. The writing and performance captures small details in such an understated way that a second listen would remain a rich experience.
I enjoyed the ordinariness of the characters;feet of clay, with varied perceptions, but with understandable intentions.
The narrator brings a kindness to the tone of the book.
Certainly well worth my credit. I will listen again and recommend this audiobook wholeheartedly.
If you like character-driven stories that slowing chip away the outer shell of a person and reveal the soft inner core this is a story you will enjoy. No astounding action, no breath-taking plot. A simple walk undertaken by a simple man for a simple reason. And all the pieces carefully woven together to form the story of Harold Fry and his little family.
This is the kind of story that has your mind wandering back to it and rethinking it for weeks after. I didn't quite buy the ending, maybe a little too trite for this otherwise unique piece of writing. I'll look forward to more Rachel Joyce books in the future.
Harold, of course, everyone else was adjunct to him.
I liked the scene where the doctor is caring for Harold's feet. So much gentle humanity and from a character not likely to show this side to just anyone.
The reconciliation of Harold Fry, although I think Pilgrimage is a better choice.
I sincerely enjoyed this, the struggles to do this ridiculous thing, walk 500 miles to be at the deathbed of Queenie....it's extraordinary and mundane all at the same time. Well done story that slowly peels away the years of pain and suffering covering the Fry family's wounds to show the painful truths and enduring love inside each of them.
Yes, that could be true, because the narrator makes you feel like you are on the road with the main character
Harold Fry is a recent retiree in England. He lives with his wife Maureen in a marriage and life that seem empty. This novel revolves around Harold's impulsive decision to walk across England to visit an old friend who lies dying. Harold's walk wakes up a part of him that has been dormant for much of his life. His wife Maureen struggles with his decision to leave. The novel moves between Harold's stories on the road, and his and Maureen's attempt to face their past which contains much sadness. There are great moments and great characters in this novel of a true modern pilgrimage. While this was not a "page-turner," it did capture a world that I wanted to stay in. This moving novel stayed with me long after I was done. The reader was perfect for this story.
As Harold Fly journeys toward Queenie, he engages in past times that are alien to him, but like well worn shirts to the listener. Harold meets new people and begins to find the good that can be found in most everyone; he remembers picture albums of past events and cringes, cries and/or conceals. I loved this book. I loved Maureen and her marriage to Harold. I loved the angst they both lived through. I loved the end of the tunnel, by the beach, holding hands.
That in the end, love conquers all.
I liked Jim Broadbent's accent and his use of the English language to subtly paint the ideas in the story.
Charming, engrossing, life-like characters
No spoilers! Read it. The whole book is memorable.
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!
Harold, obviously. So real, so British, so tragic and yet hopeful.
I don't feel as if I will ever forget Harold and Maureen and David and Queenie. They are part of me now.
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