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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

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings

Overall

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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Performance

  • 4.6 out of 5.0
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Story

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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  • Kathy
  • Davis, CA, United States
  • 10-13-12

A truly enjoyable and memorable book!

Listening to Harold's story was such a pleasure and delight. This book will remain with me for a long time and I consider it among my all-time favorite books. The story took unexpected turns but all were quite believable. Rachel Joyce did a great job with this novel.

To make the experience even more enjoyable, the narrator was perfection. I will certainly look for other books narrated by Jim Broadbent.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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"An Ordinary Man Doing Something Extraordinary...

in an ordinary way."
...so Joyce describes her own book, a story she was originally writting for a BBC radio broadcast, while experiencing her own father suffering from cancer. [And in about a month from this review, the author will find out whether or not Harold Fry will continue his journey from the Man Booker long 12 to the Man Booker Short List.] Joyce obviously is a very talented writer. She has a sparse style and the ability to write descriptive and poetic sentences with simple ordinary words that have an almost child-like purity. Whether or not the book is short-listed, I expect to see many beautiful reads from this new author.

"It seemed to Harold that he had been waiting all his life to walk. He no longer knew how far he had come, but only that he was going forward."

As reviewers have said, this is beautifuly written and the journey the listener embarks on with the very buttoned-up Harold is both heart warming and heart wrenching. I see the brilliance in Harold Fry, but have to admit it wasn't one that I couldn't wait to get back to each time I had to pause; I didn't look forward to continuing the journey--it was somber. But, maybe that was the brilliance -- that it made me feel so sad and ache-y inside, so much like Harold. The characters that join in the pilgrimage add some levity, but seem to serve more as vehicles just to move along Harold's melancholic reminiscing. I'm glad I finished and I recommend, but this isn't a story for everyone. I couldn't help but be moved by "Night Music's" review; she mentioned that she was an elderly woman and found that "looking back can be very disheartening," and she couldn't finish listening. I wish I could tell her to continue the journey--there is redemption. Towards the end, Harold questions whether his journey was just folley and gets this simply put lovely reply,

"You got up and you did something. And if trying to find a way when you don't even know if you can get there isn't a small miracle; then I don't know what is."

Lovely and bittersweet; not ordinary at all.


55 of 66 people found this review helpful

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A generation Xer loved this book

What can I say about Harold. He captures your heart and reminds me of the days of my grandparents and their stiff upper lip and absurd way of thinking of putting one foot in front of the other. I was captivated by the story even the pilgrim nonsense that is a brilliant way to show how social media is usually wrong and sensational seeking. The reader was excellent. Loved the book - it was GOOD and I haven't really listened to a GOOD book in awhile. Ignore the nonsense that people will post about it being a spiritual book and comparing it to this and that. It is a great story told by an engaging story teller.

51 of 62 people found this review helpful

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  • Taryn
  • Suffern, NY, United States
  • 06-05-13

My favorite book of 2013 so far!

I first read this book several months ago and fell in love with it. I talked my bookclub into reading it and decided to try the audio version since I didnt have time to reread. I was enchanted with the audioversion, the reader is absolutely the perfect HAROLD!!! The story unfolds slowly just like Harold's walk was painstakingly slow. Each encounter Harold has with the random strangers he meets, changes him and awakens his awareness about his life, his relationships, his mistakes and finally he finds his redemption. I have highly recommended this book to my friends and most have enjoyed it as much as I did. I think it's one of my favorites of the year!

40 of 49 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • San Juan, CA, United States
  • 08-12-15

graceful writing, profound story

This book starts off as a tiny creek that builds to a majestic river carrying deep truths about the human experience. It is a deceptively simple story, woven with great skill, so that the reader's understanding, as well as that of the characters, emerges only at l the last few moments.. No manipulative plot twists, no misdirection gimmicks, no pot boilers. The writing is simple, graceful, quiet poetry, and the reader (listener) is pulled relentlessly on a strange journey, where much is revealed about what it is to be human, and mortal, and lost, and found.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Prolonged suffering

This is the story of a long, painful, slow slog of a pilgrimage. Perhaps it is fitting, then, that the story is also an interminably slow, long slog. While there is a good idea here, the author’s descriptions are dreadfully repetitive and the characters ultimately paper-thin. Still worse, are the never-ending build-ups to climaxes that ultimately fizzle. I am still kicking myself for listening to the whole thing when I should have given up after the first hour.

15 of 18 people found this review helpful

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A journey of a life

Where does The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This book is one of the best books I have listened to in many years.

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

The entire book was wonderful but the ending was so unexpected ( Iwill say no more)

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

Harold Fry, the book is his story

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

A film about healing.

Any additional comments?

I cannot wait for the movie. If properly done it will be an award winner.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Five stars is too low for this work

Where does The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

As good as any, better than most. Charming, intelligent, gentle, wide cast of a plot, superior language, psychology of characterization throughout

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

The whole thing is memorable. I'll point to Rex saying to Maureen," Did you think I didn't notice something was wrong?"

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

Life, timing, emphasis here, less there, voices of the gentle and the crude, the mature and the green

Any additional comments?

Do yourself a favor and listen attentively.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Gail
  • Redmond, Washington, United States
  • 08-19-12

I didn't want the book to end!

Harold's pilgrimage to Queenie is life-changing and told with unspeakable beauty and clarity. You grow to love Harold and Maureen because they are so broken like all of us. The narrator is absolutely perfect. He takes his time narrating to allow you the time to really hear the incredible descriptions of the journey and the people Harold meets along the way. Don't miss this book as it is truly wonderful.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • New Berlin, WI, United States
  • 08-09-12

This one moves into one of my top Five Favorites

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Masterfully written and well performed. I enjoyed every minute of this book. The story unfolded like the English countryside.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful