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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 (4111 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Arlen Calabasas, CA, United States 10-29-12
    Arlen Calabasas, CA, United States 10-29-12 Member Since 2011
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    REVIEWS
    3
    3
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    Performance
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    "Couldn't put it down"
    If you could sum up The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry in three words, what would they be?

    A great journey


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

    A patient pacing to voice set a great tone for the story.


    Any additional comments?

    One of the best written books I have either read or listened to in a long long time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nancy 10-29-12
    Nancy 10-29-12
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    9
    8
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    "Great book, but so sad!"

    I got this booked based on all the rave reviews, also not really knowing what to expect. The story was interesting and the characters well developed. The narrator brought the characters to life as well. What I didn't expect was how incredibly sad the story is. Without divulging any of the plot, suffice to say that I listened to this while driving and by the time I reached the last 45 minutes I was crying so hard that I almost had to pull over! So - lovely story, but be prepared to have some tissues on hand.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Norma Gustafson McPherson, Kansas, US 10-29-12
    Norma Gustafson McPherson, Kansas, US 10-29-12 Listener Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    36
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    59
    11
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    FOLLOWING
    6
    1
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    "Really makes you stop and think - at least for me"
    Would you listen to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry again? Why?

    Yes. I listen while I sew and cook so there may be portions I missed or did not listen to as closely as I should have.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Everything! It would really be interesting to take a journey much like this one. To me it was a very touching story and it really makes you stop and think about things that have happened or are happening in your own life.


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

    I don't think I have or I would remember but I will certainly look for more because he was a pleasure to listen to.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    What could have been


    Any additional comments?

    I couldn't turn this book off even though it brought me to tears several times. It also brought many smiles. I started listening late one afternoon and finish listening the next evening. I felt as though these were real people and I wish I could go over and visit with them so I could learn more about them.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nadine Philadelphia, PA, United States 10-28-12
    Nadine Philadelphia, PA, United States 10-28-12 Member Since 2007
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    239
    1
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    "Listen while walking"

    I tend to steer clear of books I see as potential tear-jerkers, i.e., anything with a dog as the main character, yet something drew me to this book and I am so glad was. I “read” this as an audio book with a wonderful narration by Jim Broadbent. The fact that I listened to much of it while walking made this achingly beautiful book all the more special. It is about love, marriage, redemption, regrets, and the things we miss every day. Unlike many of the books I categorize as sentimental, I did not feel manipulated into an emotional state though I did find my self there whether I liked it or not. Give it a try on your next long walk, just bring a tissue.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nancy K 10-23-12
    Nancy K 10-23-12
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
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    "Effortless Elegance"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Definitely, and I have! It is so well written and so well read, truly a warm, delightful book.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Harold, of course. He is so innocent, and so accommodating, you just want to say, "hey, it is okay to say 'no' once in awhile!"


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

    No, but will look for him in future.


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

    Both, very touching.


    Any additional comments?

    I always listen to books in the car while driving, and have never been distracted. I have to admit, I became so engrossed in this one, I missed a very familiar exit and had to drive out of my way, But, hey, more time to listen!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Agnes 10-20-12
    Agnes 10-20-12
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    13
    1
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    "Story and Reader Sublime"
    What made the experience of listening to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry the most enjoyable?

    Audio books are divided into many categories. Good book, bad reader. Good reader, bad book. Good reader and good book. A reader can make a midocore book very enjoyable. But a poor reader can kill an excellent book. With this book both blend into a wonderful experience.

    For me a good audio book transports me from my everyday world to another. But it also connects in some way to my life. Harold Fry delves into many of the issues and questions we all carry in our heads. Especially those of us of a certain age. We are not young but we are not "old". We are on the border and we ask ourselves what is real and what is the illusion of reality.

    More importantly Harold Fry asks what is important and what will you fight for and take a stand. It shows where we might have failed ourselves in our struggle to survive in a less than ideal world but also where we are human and forgive ourselves for breaking our own rules to survive.

    I loved this audio book because it resonated with how I would have read the story in my own head; as I would have read it if I had the written book in my hands. The voice would have been similar and the cadence of the sentences would have been similar. That is what makes or breaks an audio book for me, if the reader follows what would be the tone if I read it myself. This reader surpasses my inner voice and delivers a story I don't think I would have heard if I read the book on my own.

    It is a great book but will probably not resonate for a younger audiance. There are some books, and ideas that only living to a certain age brings to you. For age is not what you think it is when you are young or even in middle age.

    Harold Fry is a voice that is the sane child of Joseph Heller and others. It asks the same questions of all of us. What is life and what make life worth while. Sometimes it is just doing what needs to be done to get through the day and you try to do your best with what you are giving. That means sometimes you let yourself down. Sometimes you just get through the day. But on occasion you take a stand even if whatever that stand is has no meaning to anyone but yourself. Sometimes you must give yourself that gift.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deborah BUFORD, GA, United States 10-18-12
    Deborah BUFORD, GA, United States 10-18-12
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    10
    4
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    "A 10 star story and performance!"

    The best book I've listened to/read in a long time and I'm not one normally for gentle sweet stories. Like a combination of Babe and Babette's Feast. Beautiful, poignant story wonderfully written. Simple yet so many surprising turns. First time I've yelled out a characters in a book, lol! "Talk to her!" And Jim Broadbent? What can I say except that his magnificent narration was the perfect match for the story and characters. I can't even remember how I came across this book but so very glad I did.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. A. Cameron United States 10-15-12
    C. A. Cameron United States 10-15-12 Member Since 2014

    catheriamjourneywoman

    ratings
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    19
    9
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    "Stellar Narration Underscores Emotional Book"
    Would you listen to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry again? Why?

    No, fellow readers, I would not. Broadbent's perfect delivery delivered every syllable, every nuance and every emotion with such eloquent intensity that once, was, indeed, enough


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

    Queenie in the hospice. Totally unexpected, blew me away. A subsequent chapter spoken with such purity and calm that I was awash in tears.


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

    Have not yet, will do soon.


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

    When Harold felt good, I felt good. When Harold was lost, I felt lost. I felt the crowded, moist heat of an afternoon in Bath, Harold's restless nocturnal wanderings and sleeplessness, the jolt from reverie of a jolly hospice sister's tea tray, shared laughter so deep it really does make your stomach hurt, the sound of an ax splintering wood in impotent sorrow and rage, the slow unveiling of useful wall map ... Mr Broadbent pats a sofa cushion, sits you down, opens the book, smiles at you, murmurs "Now, then, Catherine" and immerses one into Harold Fry's Unlikely Pilgrimage.


    Any additional comments?

    Ms Joyce deftly and unstintingly pares, peels, tugs and delves past English reserve; she will none of it. Here are Maureen and Harold, the quintessential English couple, their silences, their sorrows, their (few) joys and above all, their secrets. May not sound too jolly and frankly, I put I might well have put aside the book aside if I were reading it. But Broadbent's narration was a strong, enduring, dogged, and faithful companion into and through the Fry's travails and I can congratulate Ms Joyce for this superb journey in their lifetimes.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Phyllis Pleasant View, TN, United States 10-15-12
    Phyllis Pleasant View, TN, United States 10-15-12 Member Since 2015
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    7
    1
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    "A Quest of the Heart"
    If you could sum up The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry in three words, what would they be?

    Heartbreaking, Joyful, True


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

    Harold's letter to the girl at the garage. I had to stop the book and catch my breath. I felt like I had been hit in the solar plexus. It knocked the wind right out of me.


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

    Harold of course but all the characters are well done. Supremely so!


    If you could take any character from The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    I would take Harold so I could tell him my secrets and he could carry a piece of me in his strong, sure heart.


    Any additional comments?

    Often you will hear the word "seminal" used to speak for a breakthrough piece of literature for the young. This is truly seminal work for those of us who are entering the latter phases of our lives and are wondering "is it too late". Harold and Maureen answer this question with a beautiful honesty. I will carry this book in my heart for a long time, How often can you say a work of fiction has changed you? This one can if you open your heart.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martha Charlotte, NC, United States 10-14-12
    Martha Charlotte, NC, United States 10-14-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    13
    4
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    1
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    "Heartwarming story"
    What made the experience of listening to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry the most enjoyable?

    I loved following Harold's journey. His story was at times funny and other times incredibly sad.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Maureen, his wife. She didn't give up on him. It took a while but she came to believe in his journey.


    What about Jim Broadbent’s performance did you like?

    Everything.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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