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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Harold Fry #1)

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  102,097 Ratings  ·  13,558 Reviews
Recently retired, sweet, emotionally numb Harold Fry is jolted out of his passivity by a letter from Queenie Hennessy, an old friend, who he hasn't heard from in twenty years. She has written to say she is in hospice and wanted to say goodbye. Leaving his tense, bitter wife Maureen to her chores, Harold intends a quick walk to the corner mailbox to post his reply but inste ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published July 24th 2012 by Bond Street Books (first published March 15th 2012)
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Marion I Loved this book and all the characters. Partway into the book I wished he'd come through my town so I could join his pilgrimage. Filled with so many…moreI Loved this book and all the characters. Partway into the book I wished he'd come through my town so I could join his pilgrimage. Filled with so many wonderful ordinary people, doing good things as best they can. I was on the road as helplessly and determinedly as Harold was, and am better for it.(less)
Fiona If you enjoyed reading Harold's tale, I heartily recommend "The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey" to you. It will give you her side of the story…moreIf you enjoyed reading Harold's tale, I heartily recommend "The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey" to you. It will give you her side of the story and more details on some of the characters, to boot. (Not saying any more as it would spoil it) but well worth the read too!(less)
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Community Reviews

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Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Sep 26, 2012 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who believe life's problems can be solved with a nice cup of tea
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Hooked by Title and Cover
The Harold Fry that leaves to mail a letter to his dying friend is drained by life, full of self-loathing and incapable of mending his ruined marriage. ‘For years they had been in a place where language had no significance’. He just keeps walking in the belief that his journey will save her life. I wanted to shout “keep going Harold!”, to remind him of the adage ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ because Harold’s journey was testament to its truth.

A journey just as much about having the cour

Lisa Kay
Found at The Sunday Edition:

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is the story of one man's faith in his feet. (OneEighteen/photopin)

So well narrated by the wonderful Jim Broadbent. If you'd like to hear a bit of it, go here and click on the pod casts. It touched my heart.

Jim Broadbent

North Devon coastline

Clovelly, North Devon

Taunton, U.K. You can see the paving stones.

Walled gardens in Taunton.

Glastonbury England - The Resting place of the Legendary King Arthur

Mendip Hills

horse chestnut

Richard Derus
Three star review has moved to Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud.

But really, there are better ways to spend your eyeblinks than reading this mawkish treacle.
Jennifer D.
stil mulling this one. sometimes i really liked it and other moments i was...a little bored. there was definitely an overuse of "put one foot in front of the other" that verged on becoming a drinking game. the premise of the story is lovely but it did get a bit schlocky and mitch albom-y for my tastes. mentions of both facebook and twitter in the book were curious.

edited to add (pasted in from my comment below, in case people don't read the comments here):

you know, the further i get from reading
Feb 13, 2015 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Harold Fry has never done the unexpected, having spent the last 65 years living a quiet sheltered life. Retired for the last six months Harold shaves each morning and puts on a tie only to sit in the same chair with nowhere to go as his wife Maureen silently cleans. One day he recieves a letter from an woman from his past who informs him she is dying. Harold pens his reply only to be disappointed by his response so he makes a snap decision to walk across England from Kingsbridge to Berwick Upton ...more
Jan 21, 2013 Isabelle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have just browsed through a bunch of reviews that are literally glowing with praise, so I feel rather embarrassed that I cannot be more enthused about this novel.
I was really taken in by the premise and rather enjoyed the beginning of the book, probably until celebrity, hype and disciples befall Harold.
From that point on, I started to find the book predictable, if not a little trite even. I also think that while I have nothing against a good dose of pathos, this may have bordered on the overdo
Lynne Spreen
Jul 21, 2016 Lynne Spreen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: midlife
I just finished this lovely book, and I'm never going to forget it. To those who say nobody wants to read about "old people", I'd say, read this book. The fact is, as long as you're alive, you should be open to growth and change, right? But how many of us stop growing after middle age? We find a formula that works and we stick with it, missing opportunities to experience joyous awakening. Maybe we start saying things like, "I'm too old to do X any more." And we shut down, close off. We fail to n ...more
B the BookAddict
Nov 26, 2015 B the BookAddict rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dale, everyone
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: saw comments by Michael and Lit Bug
Shelves: fiction

What to say about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry; a lovely read, a phenomenal book, exceptional and captivating. How I lingered over this book; read it slowly to truly savour and appreciate the story. The author doesn't try to impress you with pretentious words nor does she bamboozle you with a convoluted plot. It's an unembellished story. The 'hero' is not good-looking or rich; he's a simple man who embarks on the journey of a lifetime. I loved the absolute clarity of foresight into the
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I fear I am heartless.

Some people I respect as readers give this book five stars and I just can't.

Basically, it is about a man taking a walk. Beginning, middle, end. He gets bad news about an old friend and just starts walking, wearing the wrong kind of shoes and without bringing his 'mobile.'

Most of the book is about regret and finding his way back to what matters. So, I get that, but it didn't poke through my tough exterior, I guess. You have my permission to call me heartless.

I listened to t
Jan 05, 2013 Alison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Pilgrims
Recommended to Alison by: Dini
"Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that this was the dilemma of being human."

I just finished this book on New Year's Eve, and I'm so happy I did, because this is a book about new beginnings, even the ones begun in the twilight of our lives.

I have to begin by being perfectly honest which is, I feel, not only in keeping with the spirit of this book, but also the way that Harold would have wanted it. I feel like a
Gabriela Silva
Jan 28, 2016 Gabriela Silva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“The people he met, the places he passed, were all steps in his journey, and he kept a place inside his heart for each of them.”

This was such a powerful book! I'm so glad I took the time to read it. I loved the writing style! BRILLIANT!
Mar 09, 2016 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, fiction, england, grief
I loved the purity and spare beauty of this sad but uplifting tale. At first I wondered how I could possibly get involved in this apparently absurd story. A retired salesman for a brewery receives a letter of goodbye from an old friend, Queenie, who is dying of cancer, and, on the way to the mailbox with a return reply, ends up setting out on a 500 mile walk to visit her. But it was a quick read and full of pleasant surprises and many special moments where the clouds of life’s travails and burie ...more
Oct 13, 2012 M rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What the heck, Goodreads?? What the HECK?

Though I did not finish this, I feel that is proof enough of this book's ridiculousness. Maybe I am all the more indignant because I was all, hey, check it out, it got this crazy good rating, and yay, my library managed to get it before I got too old to read, and isn't goodreads amazing because wow it alerts me to wonderful books and SO I DON'T HAVE TO READ BAD ONES ANYMORE EXCEPT THIS TIME I STILL DID!
What is it with you people? I mean seriously?? Let's
Jul 31, 2012 Cynthia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Where to next Sancho?

Harold Fry is definitely an unlikely hero. He would also have easily been voted ‘least likely to go on a spiritual quest’. This makes him perfect for this story because it’s about unlikely thoughts, friendships, marriages, what have you. Harold’s quest begins with a letter from a former co-worker he thinks of fondly. They’ve shared a pivotal moment in Harold’s life. He reads the letter soon after he retires from said job and he reads it in front of his continually carping wi
Cathrine ☯
Sep 24, 2015 Cathrine ☯ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An allegorical adventure that speaks to the reader gently, quietly, and personally. Harold’s odyssey if you will in Forrest Gump fashion taking it one day at a time.

Burdened by a life where he has ended up feeling like nothing he did mattered, in a souless marriage that appears to be well past its expiration date, Harold has a destination in mind but of course it’s all about the journey getting there. Haunted by buried memories and words left unsaid he takes a first literal step and then many
I won't be pursuing this read. After the first few chapters, the book and I decided to sit down and seriously talk about where this read was headed. The conversation went something like this:

ME: Look, I don't mean to appear impatient, ok, I know you're doing your best to hold my attention in this read, but I have to admit to you, and I hope you can understand that this is in no way an indictement of the style or structure, but the whole plot feels rather contrived.

TUPOHF: Where is this headed? A
Nov 14, 2012 Noeleen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is only one book that has ever made me cry. That book is The Kite Runner. I had always wondered if I would ever read another book that would make me cry and if so, which book would it be? Harold Fry… you made me cry and cry and cry and then when I thought I was finished crying…you made me cry again.

Harold Fry, now retired, receives a letter from an old friend and work colleague, Queenie Hennessy. Queenie, who hasn’t seen Harold for over twenty years, is saying goodbye. So begins Harold’s j
May 15, 2016 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sweet and wonderful story...
Aug 07, 2012 Beadyjan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoyed Major Pettigrews last stand by Helen Simonson
Absolutely delightful - sheer reading pleasure at its very best.

Harold and Maureen are a retired couple living a quiet, mundane life in Devon, where hardly anything ever happens and they hardly ever talk to each other any more, when they do its barely an exchange of words followed by Maureens usual put down "I think not"

One day a letter arrives for Harold which informs him that an old work colleague Queenie is in a hospice in Berwick on Tweed. Harold pens a reply and walks out of the door to pos
Deborah Swift
Dec 31, 2011 Deborah Swift rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the premise of this book, that a man could just decide one day, whilst out to post a letter, to keep walking away from his life. Ostensibly he is on a mercy mission to a former colleague who is terminally ill with cancer, but the journey is more than that, as is suggested by the title. It is an old man's journey to find himself. Harold Fry is ill-equipped for such a journey as clad only in his deck-shoes he sets off to walk from Devon to Berwick-upon Tweed - the length of England. Inevit ...more
Doug Bradshaw
Aug 26, 2012 Doug Bradshaw rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Harold Fry walked 600 miles through villages, his life and relationships and sometimes lugubrious past, his marriage and his future. It was almost as if he had died and was now reviewing everything about his life, his failures, his successes, the psychology of what made him what he had become with an angel or spiritual guide and now perhaps can find ways to finally resolve and improve what life he has left in him. Here are my random thoughts and reasons I really loved the book.

1. This book could
Feb 21, 2015 Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sue by: Cynthia Tooley
This has proved to be a very rewarding reading experience and I found that I liked it's slow reveal of Harold's life and of Harold, Maureen and Queenie's back stories. It seemed as the book progressed that Harold slowly began to realize, or to admit to himself, why he had to walk. His past began to open up to him and, in parallel, at home, his wife began to have much the same experience.

This is not a novel of big moments. It is one of small moments---the remembered grasp of a son's hand, a dog d
Nov 25, 2015 Britany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Harold Fry goes to his mailbox to send a letter, and then decides to walk to the next mailbox, once he gets there he decides to walk a little further. Eventually he decides to have faith and walk across the country to hand deliver the letter to Queenie Hennessy. A person that just went through life's motions without ever really living, a shell of a man who decides to take control back and DO something about it.

This book was a deep character study of seemingly normal characters shelved away and
I don't want to say much about the book, since so many have read and reviewed it already.
Touching, endearing, realistic, emotional, good.

It is one of the books on my To-Be-Read list that constantly landed on top, and I finally relented. I am not sorry at all. I took the time to venture off with Harold Fry with his letter to Queenie, felt the blisters, muscle spasms and emotional denouement as we walked 627 miles from south to north through England to deliver a letter personally. We dissected li
Angela M
Mar 04, 2015 Angela M rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have recently reread parts of this book in conjunction with reading The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy and I am revising my rating from 4 to 5 stars .

This is a journey to the past. Each slow step, each blister, each new person Harold meets reveals something of the truth of his life to him and to us.

An unwanted, neglected boy grew up to be an unremarkable man. But for a brief instant, he frolicked at a dance and attracted the loveliest girl, Maureen. They dreamed and planned and married. They made a lovely home with veggie gardens and had one son, David.

Harold worked at the brewery for 45 years for an obnoxious bully of a boss (like his fathe
If I had received a letter informing me someone I once knew was dying of cancer, I would either post a letter, at least a paragraph or two long, most likely expressing my sympathies and recalling some of our times we shared together, or I would want to go and visit, preferably arriving as quickly as possible. Mr Harold Fry, however, on discovering that Queenie, someone he used to work with, is dying of cancer, despite feeling profoundly affected by this news, initially decides to write back 2 st ...more
Maxine (Booklover Catlady)
Oh wow, and wow...a book that actually made me cry, I think that's a first. This book I so wish was chosen by my book club to read, it's so touching, so moving, so funny, so human and has one of the most powerful endings. I felt like I knew Harold personally, I cheered him on with his pilgrimage walk. This book is special, is about the human spirit, it felt so real at times it could almost be a true story, everyone should read this book. Some breathtaking paragraphs that touched me so very deepl ...more
Nov 12, 2015 Mack rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There was a lot of insight and charm to this novel and lots of fascinating characters. If Queenie Hennessy had not written a goodbye letter to Harold he might never have discovered the commitment, strength and power he had inside in and it was a realisation so profound it was to change the course of his life. In his embarkment to see Queenie to resolve some unfinished business he unlocks his heart and generates a deep and profound emotional healing.
☼♄Jülie 
Dec 02, 2014 ☼♄Jülie  rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All
Recommended to ☼♄Jülie  by: AR group friends.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.
Much gratitude to my Goodreads Aussie Readers friends for recommending I read this wonderful story.

Poignant...thought provoking... moving....touching...Emotive....

I believe this story will resonate differently to every reader, but one thing I am certain of is that, it will resonate, won't fail to be moved by it in some way.

If emotions could be made tangible through the written word, then Rachel Joyce has perfected that quality with The Unlikely Pil
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Rachel Joyce has written over 20 original afternoon plays for BBC Radio 4, and major adaptations for both the Classic Series, Woman's Hour and also a TV drama adaptation for BBC 2. In 2007 she won the Tinniswood Award for best radio play. She moved to writing after a twenty-year career in theatre and television, performing leading roles for the RSC, the Royal National Theatre, The Royal Court, and ...more
More about Rachel Joyce...

Other Books in the Series

Harold Fry (2 books)
  • The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy (Harold Fry, #2)

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“People were buying milk, or filling their cars with petrol, or even posting letters. And what no one else knew was the appalling weight of the thing they were carrying inside. The superhuman effort it took sometimes to be normal, and a part of things that appeared both easy and everyday. The loneliness of that.” 167 likes
“I miss her all the time. I know in my head that she has gone. The only difference is that I am getting used to the pain. It's like discovering a great hole in the ground. To begin with, you forget it's there and keep falling in. After a while, it's still there, but you learn to walk round it.” 146 likes
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