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)
Marriage and Family Therapist
Sometimes magical thinking works. Harold sets off to save a friend in a way that makes his wife question his sanity, but his quirky quest leads to more being saved than either could have imagined. Sweet, funny, moving. Loved it.
This one pulls you in. Starting simply you are pulled into a lifetime of reflection on choices made, heartaches suffered....the tapestry that made Harold and his wife. I aches with them, I cried with them, I laughed with them, and I felt their lives. Don't miss this one
I enjoyed the writing, the story and the performance in almost equal measure. A section of the book dragged somewhat and seemed out of place (I won't say which to avoid a spoiler) but the book was well worth the listen. I thought the author did an excellent job of teasing out the story of Harold's relationships and portraying how we all suppress "unpleasantness" in our lives. It was also genuinely touching without being maudlin.
I wasn't prepared for this story. But as in most good stories, that made it even better.
I quickly identified with Harold Fry, as I am a father of an only son - and my parents' only son. And about 2/3 of the way through, I thought I had it figured out. But I found myself crying uncontrollably, while driving around town listening to the last few chapters.
This was truly an unlikely, but memorable pilgrimage for Harold and for me.
The narrator of this book makes it such a joy to listen to that I couldn't put it down!
This rates among the top books I've listened to over the past year. Jim Broadbents narration is perfect. Harold's pilgramage is an end of life journey of remembrance and self searching that is at once touching and poignant. And though Harold leaves his wife Maureen at home as he sets off unexpectantly on foot to a friend dying of cancer, she herself embarks upon her own journey of remembrance that exposes her own empty cold life. This unlikely pilgrimage leads both Harold and Maureen to a new beginnning that neither of them imagined. This beautiful story merges lives of emptiness and pain to a beautiful conclusion. Do not hestitate. This one is worth your time.
What a journey, the author weaves a tale that goes thru our humanity in creative intimate encounters. I loved it, this is one i would listen to again, just to relish the depth of it.
Book are life enriching
I would recommend this book because it is about an ordinary man who did something extraordinary.
I think many readers can relate to Harold's journey and if not - are intrigued by it.
I really liked the main character
I'd perhaps like to go on a walking trip with the main character as opposed to having dinner.
Just that it was a tale about an ordinary person who did an extraordinary thing and that we are all of us capable of something extraordinary....
Overall this was a good story, it dragged in parts, but I kept engaged, even cried a few times along with Harold. I think it was strange when Harold had all of those followers walking with him, but I guess it was a way to have many different characters, often contrasting with Harold. (human frailty at its best) The walk, which was therapeutic for so many people, even those not walking, like Harold's wife, caused me to cheer along with everyone, hoping Harold would make it to the end in time.
The writing was very descriptive and detailed, and allowed the reader to experience what Harold was seeing and doing. The narration was appropriate and done very well. This is the kind of easy book that requires nothing from the reader, but to tag along and enjoy.
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