By the Book @ Rogers Memorial Library

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce

Harold Fry has spent the majority of his life trying to be unobtrusive, to make as little trouble as possible.  Although he loves his wife Maureen, he is aware that she finds him entirely annoying.  He mourns his lack of connection to his son David and his perceived failure as a father.  After working for many years at the local brewery, he has retired and now spends his life doing the chores that are necessary to keep his home in perfect condition.  The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is the story of a man barely existing, seemingly waiting for life to come to a predictable end.

Then one day a letter arrives.  This letter is from Queenie Hennessey; she has written from a hospice 400 miles away to say goodbye before she dies of cancer.  This letter jolts Harold, causing him to weep as he remembers the days that he worked with Queenie at the brewery and the kindness she showed him.  He feels the need to acknowledge the letter but, at first, he’s unable to adequately respond.  Finally, he writes a dry sentence or two and heads to the post box down the road to send it off to Berwick-on-Tweed.

When Harold gets to the post box, he decides that he’s not ready to mail the letter quite yet.  He will walk to the next box so that the letter will arrive sooner.  Thus begins an unintentional journey, spurred by the words of a greasy-haired girl at a gas station, who tells Harold that with faith you can do anything.  Harold adds a postscript to his letter asking Queenie to hang on…he will walk to her.  He then posts the letter and heads north.  He is wearing a shirt and tie, yachting shoes and has no hat, map or any of the other paraphernalia necessary for such a trip.  But he believes that as long as he walks, Queenie will not die.

Harold’s pilgrimage and its effect on the people in his life and the people he meets on the road is a story of discovery and redemption; friendships lost and found; and the pain and joy of family relations.  Written with delicacy and skill by Rachel Joyce, the little English villages and their inhabitants come to life as Harold wanders through.

If you are looking for a  character-driven story that will sometimes surprise you, pick up The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and take a literary journey with an unforgettable character.


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