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)
Yes. Harold is such a guarded, proper Englishman whose only coping skill was to "stay calm and carry on" when tragedy hit earlier in life. Now that he is retired, there is not much "carrying on" to do and he has to deal with the memories. He does this in a very bizarre way, but it all makes sense as the book goes on. The narrator is excellent and although the book drags a bit at the end, it is a very nice little story and you will think about it long after it's over.
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Harold's meeting with the blue-eyed businessman at the train station.
Boomers can certainly identify with Harold Fry.
The moment he decided to keep walking.
No, but nicely done.
I liked it a lot.
Definitely worth reading. Above average.
Jim Broadbent was superb for this novel. Right up there with Davina Porter for tempo and pitch. Bravo.
This is one of the most beautiful, unassuming and courageous books I have had the pleasure of reading in a very long time.
Harold Fry is an ordinary man who does not voice his feelings but stoically goes on, whatever life throws at him knowing his wife barely tolerates him and tries to appease her. One day he receives some very distressing news that a colleague and friend from the past is dying with cancer. He decides to send her a note and finding this inadequate a series of events leads to him walking the great distance from one corner of England to the other. This does not dissolve in a Forest Gump fest, although there are echoes, but trudges along at Harold's timbre. Allowing him to learn more and more about himself and the mysterious world around him.
Harold is retired and is wearing every day shoes and sets off in nothing more than one would be wearing for a trip to the shops. But he is armed with determination, self belief and sense of right. On his journey the introvert Harold, who likes to see the best in people but tries to avoid them, meets many different characters,some who bolster and assist him and others who use Harold and his story to further their own ends. But all leave their mark on dear Harold. He brings out the best of the British nation as they unite on his travails.
His journey becomes a pilgrimage and whilst walking, letting going of the trappings of life and just being Harold cleans out the corners of the painful memories that dwell inside along with the happy ones. He begins to reflect and unearths and examines his marriage, his choices and his relationships with his parents, his son and Queenie the woman he is walking to see, hoping his pilgrimage will give her that umpf she needs to hold on because she feels valued. He is repaying what he sees as a debt from the past. As he journeys he reaches his own private watershed and we are allowed to share this with him.
Harold's wife tetchy and cleaning obsessed Maureen also has to examine her own choices and behaviours. She runs the entire gamut of emotions which gets the reader wondering what terrible things Harold may have done and becoming suspicious, against your better judgement, or Harold's motives. Maureen too examines her part in this life of theirs and begins to see another truth emerging and allowing her to be who she really is.
This beautiful tale shows the very best, the very worst and how the ordinary can become most extraordinary. I smiled, I laughed and towards the end where the tale completely unfolds I cried big fat tears of sadness as the secrets were finally spilled. But I also rejoiced at the end.
To find oneself and to love is a joyous thing.
the book caused me to think about life and how we change with experiences
end of book with his wife
no, enjoyed stretching the book over several days to reflect on the events
This was my first audiobook, a gift from a friend who clearly knew what I was missing. Once I was engaged in the storytelling, I hung on for dear life. Jim Broadbent delivered indelible characters and imagery. I cannot fathom what I would have conjured from the words on a page. Listening deeply transforms a story to an experience, and this one was magic.
The straightforward narration, the descriptions of the locations, the lack of pandering to the expected.
His great accents that distinguished the individual characters and put life into each one.
Harold, who goes from a constrained and restricted world view to a broader understanding of himself and his place in the world.
Quirky, heart-warming, poignant
Favorite character was Harold. The unfurling of Harold's realization of his self-limitations, his willingness to challenge his personal status quo and to prick at his comfort zone in order to grow as a human being is what makes this such an interesting and satisfying novel.
When Harold 's wife realized that she was partly responsible for the state of her relationship with Harold and had the courage to change.
touching uplifting revealing
Harold Fry didn't seem to know what he was doing for much of the story, but he stumbled through a life affirming journey as the story revealed itself to be much deeper and more meaningful that one could imagine.
Each of the moments in which Harold relied on the kindness of strangers to help him survive his journey, and in most cases the strangers came through.
The premise was engaging and the main characters really got to me. I found myself very engaged in their struggles and routing for the best outcome for all of them.
Part Odyssey, part Wizard of Oz, part Shantaram, this book was clever, funny and sad all at the same time. Rachel Joyce delved into the joys and tragedies of life and was able to turn phrases with depth. Sometimes I felt as if the author was really on to something, but then she would take off in an entirely different direction and this hurt the flow of the plot. And, as with most of my other critiques, I think the editing could have been tighter. Jim Broadbent was outstanding as the narrator.
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