Bonnie Brody's Reviews > The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
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May 28, 2012

it was amazing

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is an amazing book. It had me from the first sentence and never let go. I read this book in two sittings and loved every minute of it.

Harold Fry has worked in a brewery for decades and has just retired six months previously. He and his wife live in the same house but are really strangers to one another. They sleep in different rooms and rarely speak to one another. One day, out of the blue, Harold gets a letter from an old friend from work, Queenie Hennessy. She is in hospice with terminal cancer and is writing this letter to say goodbye to Harold. Harold writes a short letter of goodbye to her and then goes to post his letter. He gets to the first post box and then walks on to the next. At the next postal box he continues to walk. What started as a trip to post a letter becomes a pilgrimage to the end of England to say goodbye to Queenie in person.

Harold is wearing yachting shoes which are not very substantial. He has never walked further than from his house to his car and he is not prepared for this 600 mile walk. However, he is determined to do it. Queenie was a good friend and once did a very good deed for Harold and he wants to say goodbye in person. He wants Queenie to wait until he gets there, to hold on and not die before he gets a chance to say goodbye. Queenie agrees.

On his trip, Harold meets all kinds of characters and wonderful people. They feed him, help him take care of his blisters, give him directions and help him out in a myriad of ways. Harold learns to believe in the good of most people. He meets a doctor from Slovakia who is only able to clean houses in England. He meets a young woman in a gas station who has a deep faith that spurs Harold on in his journey. He meets a young thief who reminds him of his own son. "Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that was the dilemma of being human."

Gradually, Harold becomes a national sensation. The press gets wind of his pilgrimage, others join him, and he is written up in newspapers and is on television news. He misses his wife, Maureen, on this trip and they talk daily. Their talks are pretty banal but Harold is thinking deep thoughts and remembers the time he met Maureen, how they once were with each other and the depths of love they once felt. He remembers what it was like to have a young family and he thinks lovingly of his son.

This is a sentimental book without being maudlin. It is about love, life, memories and hope. It is about being someone, the best person you can be. "It seemed important to allow himself to be true to the instincts that made him Harold, as opposed to anyone else." This walk is the most important thing that Harold has done in his life and he feels that, for the first time, he is really doing something. "We hang on by so little, he thought, and felt the full despair of knowing that." Now he is hanging on to hope and a journey that will bring him face to face with an old friend that he has not seen in twenty years.

I absolutely loved this book and recommend it to everyone. It is a book to treasure and read again. It is simple yet profound. It is a book that will enrich anyone who reads it. Thank you Ms. Joyce for giving us Harold and his pilgrimage.
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Reading Progress

May 28, 2012 – Started Reading
May 28, 2012 – Shelved
May 29, 2012 –
page 175
May 31, 2012 – Finished Reading

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