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)
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.
Harold Fry is a soft and sympathetic character who learns as much about himself as others on this impulsive journey. Jim Broadbent's reading is spot on. A bit rambling and repetitive at times, but overall a good listen
LOVED this book. It absolutely nails how people who actually love each other can destroy their relationship through poor communication, not being open to each other, and not realizing when the other reaches out. That sounds pretty grim, but there is enough humor woven in that you enjoy the story and the "lessons." The specifics of the storyline fall apart a bit near the end, but the author pulls it back together.
This is a sweet, simple, and poignant story of a sad, retired man who had lost purpose in his life but rediscovers himself through his pilgimage across country to see a dying friend. The story has a slow pace, like the walker, but builds as Harold encounters interesting characters along the way. The narration by the great British actor, Jim Broadbent, is the perfect voice for the story and for Harold.
I am a working mom who loves to squeeze in listening to books while walking, doing chores or commuting.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes books about the issues common to many long term marriages. A little space sometimes, is a good thing. This book did not offend traditional values.
Even thought the ending was predictable, I was pleased that Harold found peace.
Great job. No complaints.
A nice pro-marriage book.
I found this book to be excellent, in the spirit of the highest level of literature. The story is far from predictable, and yet the characters are so predictable in ways that we can't help but see our own behavior in them. Despite the message about sometimes changing one's life despite all the obstacles, I still found watching Harold's decisions frustrating to watch. I sympathize with his sad life, retired with an unloving/unforgiving wife, and I think it's noble he decided on his walk on the spur of the moment. But his decisions are too unthinking: refusing to buy decent shoes and developing huge blisters, hooking up with people who are clearly not good, refusing to pause his walk despite terrible pain and miserable weather, etc. I know the author is intelligent and deliberately wants us to see all these contradictions in his life, but when the character's lack of self-awareness swamps the plot, I think it distracts from the author's good yet complicated message to the reader.
There is no way you can keep from liking Harold. He has faults like all of us, but he just tries so hard to do the right thing. His adventure had me thinking how I would react to the same difficult or enjoyable circumstances and his determination to make the journey is a rare thing. It was a long listen, but worth it.
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