Shonna, January 15, 2013 (view all comments by Shonna)
I've been reading this novel slowly, trying to prolong it as I was enjoying it so much. Harold Fry is a retired salesman for a brewery. He lives a quiet life with his wife Maureen, until one day he receives a letter from a former colleague, Queenie Hennessy. The letter indicates that Queenie is dying of cancer, and Harold isn't sure how to respond. He finally writes a quick note, shoves it in an envelope, and walks out to the postbox. But inexplicably, he doesn't stop there, deciding to go to the next one, and then the next one, and he just keeps walking. He finally realizes that he is walking to Queenie, across most of Britain, a task he is woefully unprepared for. He keeps calling and sending postcards to Maureen, telling her of his progress, and meets a variety of characters, most of whom assist him in his journey. Maureen, at home, also goes through a change as she deals with her husband's unexpected pilgrimage, looking at her own life and the things she has done and said.
Ultimately, it is a story of their marriage, their struggles and the gulf that has grown between them and the events that are now an opportunity for them to bridge that gulf.
The writing is wonderful. We get a sense of Harold's past as we see his mother "She was young, with a peony-bud mouth and a husband who had seemed a good idea before the war and a bad one after it." We see how he learned at a young age "to appear absent even when present".
As he finds himself walking, he finds he is both revisiting his past and really noticing the world around him. He muses "maybe you saw even more that the land when you got out of the car and used your feet." Harold has more revelations as his journey continues. "He saw that when a person becomes estranged from the things they know, and is a passerby, strange things take on a new significance."
A story of a man's life, his struggle to do the right things, to say the right things, coming from a past where he wasn't taught how to do any of it. This is an amazing book, well worth the read.
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krickcrak, January 6, 2013 (view all comments by krickcrak)
I thought I knew what would happen, but this book surprised me. It had an unexpected and powerful emotional impact on me, and because of this, I believe it is the best. book I read this year. Check it out
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lolly, January 4, 2013 (view all comments by lolly)
Loved this book! You too will go on an unlikely pilgrimage and be caught up in a wonderfully simplistic seeming protagonist who we find is not so simple after all.
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The Loopy Librarian, January 2, 2013 (view all comments by The Loopy Librarian)
Inspiring from start to finish, this book had me rooting for the characters at every juncture. Whenever I would go to the mailbox, I would think of Harold and how his intent to post a letter became a 600 mile journey. He sets out to save his friend, but ends up saving his marriage and changing his life. I think I was even jealous of Harold. I was captivated by the idea of taking off on a whim as he did and accomplishing the impossible despite all odds. He wasn’t trying to be heroic, nor was he. He was just an old man trying to find redemption and purpose. I felt privileged to have taken the journey with him. A worthy read!
In accordance with FTC guidelines, I was provided a review copy through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
0 stars -
Random House -
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"When Harold Fry, a morbidly shy, retired British brewery salesman, decides on a whim to walk the distance between his home in southern England and the hospice where his long-lost friend, Queenie Hennessey, is dying of cancer, he has no idea that his act will change his life and inspire hundreds of people. The motivation behind the trek and why he is burdened by guilt and the need to atone, are gradually revealed in this initially captivating but finally pedestrian first novel by English writer Joyce. During Harold's arduous trek, which covers 627 miles and 87 days, he uncoils the memory of his destructive rampage for which Queenie took the blame. He also acknowledges the unraveling of his marriage and his anguish about the lack of intimacy with his son. Plagued by doubt and exhaustion, he undergoes a dark night of the soul, but in the tradition of classical pilgrimages, he ultimately achieves spiritual affirmation. Joyce writes with precision about the changing landscape as Harold trudges his way across England. Early chapters of the book are beguiling, but a final revelation tests credulity, and the sentimental ending may be an overdose of what the Brits call 'pudding.' Agent: Conville & Walsh Literary Agency. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
by O: The Oprah Magazine,
"[A] gorgeously poignant novel of hope and transformation."
by Minneapolis Star Tribune,
"You have to love Harold Fry, a man who set out one morning to mail a letter and then just kept going....Like Christian in John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, Harold becomes Everyman in the eyes of those who encounter him....Harold's journey, which parallels Christian's nicely but not overly neatly, takes him to the edge of death and back again. It will stick with you, this story of faith, fidelity and redemption."
by Washington Post,
"For all of us perfectly responsible, stoop-shouldered suburbanites wearing a path in the living-room carpet, Harold's ridiculous journey is a cause for celebration. This is Walter Mitty skydiving. This is J. Alfred Prufrock not just eating that peach, but throwing the pit out the window, rolling up his trousers and whistling to those hot mermaids. Released from the cage of his own passivity, Harold feels transformed, though he keeps his tie on....In this bravely unpretentious and unsentimental tale, she's cleared space where miracles are still possible."
by USA Today,
"[R]emarkable....I can't think of a better recommendation for summer reading. And take your time, just as Harold does."
by Janet Maslin, New York Times,
"[A] story of present-day courage...about how easily a mousy, domesticated man can get lost and how joyously he can be refound."
by Cleveland Plain Dealer,
"From its charming beginning to its startling and cathartic denouement, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a comic and tragic joy."
by Nancy Horan, author of Loving Frank,
"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."
by Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife,
"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."
by Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand,
"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."
by Erica Wagner, The Times (UK),
"Harold's journey is ordinary and extraordinary; it is a journey through the self, through modern society, through time and landscape. It is a funny book, a wise book, a charming book — but never cloying. It's a book with a savage twist — and yet never seems manipulative. Perhaps because Harold himself is just wonderful....I'm telling you now: I love this book."
by Claire Tomalin, author of Charles Dickens: A Life,
"The odyssey of a simple man...original, subtle and touching."
by Tiffany Baker, author of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County,
"The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry takes the most ordinary and unassuming of men and turns him into a hero for us all. To go on this journey with Harold will not only break your heart, it might just also heal it."
"A gentle and genteel charmer, brimming with British quirkiness yet quietly haunting in its poignant and wise examination of love and devotion. Sure to become a book-club favorite."
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