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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
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    Lois Leveen 9781476757445

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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry Cover

 

 

Reading Group Guide

1. Why does the story that the garage girl tells Harold affect him so deeply? Do you think Harold would have mused on faith and gone on this tremendous journey had the garage girl told Harold that her aunt died of cancer anyway?

2. How does Maureen’s relationship with Rex allow her the perspective to understand Harold’s decision to walk?

3. The publicity that Harold receives on his journey often feels like a curse. What are some benefits that come out of the media coverage?

4. What does Harold’s choice to live off the land and other people’s kindness mean to him?

5. In what ways is the incident at the beach with his son representative of Harold’s fears about himself? In what ways do those fears reflect the reality?

6. “He had not said goodbye to his son. Maureen had; but Harold had not. There would always be this difference.” Do you think anything would have been different for Harold had he had the moment of closure with David’s body at the funeral home? How did this difference manifest over the years?

7. How might things have been different for Harold and Maureen if she had told him about Queenie’s visit to the house in which she explained why she took the blame? Maureen thinks her withholding of this information caused years of irreversible damage. How might Harold have been affected if he’d known any sooner that Queenie didn’t blame him at all?

8. What state did you think Queenie would be in when Harold reached the end of his journey? Were you surprised by their interaction once he got there? How do you think that scene might have been changed if Harold had arrived any sooner?

9. Think about all the people Harold met along the way—the garage girl, the barkeep, the woman with the apples and water, Martina, Wilf. Had Harold not met even one of them, might his journey have diverged, stalled, or even ended before he reached Queenie?

10. Where would Harold be today if he hadn’t made his pilgrimage? What would the state of his relationship with Maureen be? How would news of Queenie’s death have affected him? What would his life look like?

11. Does Harold’s journey feel secularly or religiously spiritual to you? Does it change over time? How does his idea of faith fit with your own beliefs?

12. What would it take to get you to make an extraordinary journey? Is there anyone or anything that could compel you to walk six hundred miles? What would such a journey mean to you?

13. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry has become an international bestseller. Readers from Taiwan, Germany, England, Australia, the United States, Italy, South Africa, and many other countries have embraced the novel. What do you think accounts for Harold reaching the hearts of so many people from all over the world?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Beverly B, February 9, 2014 (view all comments by Beverly B)
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a quiet, beautiful novel about reimagining the rest of your life. It is the kind of story that stays with you long after you have finished reading. Harold Fry is a likable yet forgettable everyman who finds himself with too much time to think and not enough to do after he retires. When he receives a letter from a terminally ill very close friend he lost touch with years earlier, he decides his pilgrimage to her will give her the hope and motivation to survive. Harold, who is not an athlete and has not walked farther than the end of his driveway in years, is inspired to use his long journey to reflect on his regrets and his long forgotten joys. During his journey, he learns to connect with the places and people around him and reconnect with the things that used to make him happy. His transformation is as much a surprise to him as it is the reader. (An excellent choice for book clubs.)
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Bonnie Anderson, April 29, 2013 (view all comments by Bonnie Anderson)
I read this book in record time and didn't want it to end. It's a beautiful story of a truly unlikely journey which Harold takes to visit a friend. The relationships between Harold and his family and those he encounters on his walk from the south of England to Scotland were both humorous and poignant.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780812983456
Author:
Joyce, Rachel
Publisher:
Random House Trade
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20130331
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Language:
English
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
8 x 5.2 x 0.8 in 0.6125 lb

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » General
Featured Titles » Literature
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Contemporary Women
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Debut Fiction
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Family Life

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry Used Trade Paper
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Product details 368 pages Random House Trade - English 9780812983456 Reviews:
"Review" by , “[Rachel] Joyce’s beguiling debut is [a] modest-seeming story of ‘ordinary’ English lives that enthralls and moves you as it unfolds.”
"Review" by , "[A] gorgeously poignant novel of hope and transformation."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "[R]emarkable....I can't think of a better recommendation for summer reading. And take your time, just as Harold does."
"Review" by , "[A] story of present-day courage...about how easily a mousy, domesticated man can get lost and how joyously he can be refound."
"Review" by , "From its charming beginning to its startling and cathartic denouement, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a comic and tragic joy."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "The odyssey of a simple man...original, subtle and touching."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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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