The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel

By Rachel Joyce
Publisher:Random House, (7/24/2012)

Average Rating:
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3.83 out of 5 (6 Clubie's ratings)

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Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack of quotidian minutiae is a letter addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn’t seen or heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye.
Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, heads to the corner mailbox. But then, as happens in the very best works of fiction, Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. And thus begins the unlikely pilgrimage at the heart of Rachel Joyce’s remarkable debut. Harold Fry is determined to walk six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed because, he believes, as long as he walks, Queenie Hennessey will live.
Still in his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold embarks on his urgent quest across the countryside. Along the way he meets one fascinating character after another, each of whom unlocks his long-dormant spirit and sense of promise. Memories of his first dance with Maureen, his wedding day, his joy in fatherhood, come rushing back to him—allowing him to also reconcile the losses and the regrets. As for Maureen, she finds herself missing Harold for the first time in years.
And then there is the unfinished business with Queenie Hennessy.
A novel of unsentimental charm, humor, and profound insight into the thoughts and feelings we all bury deep within our hearts, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry introduces Rachel Joyce as a wise—and utterly irresistible—storyteller.

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Harriet's thoughts on "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel"
updated on:7/3/2014

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Beezy's thoughts on "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel"
updated on:1/25/2013

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Ceci's thoughts on "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel"
updated on:9/2/2012

Harold Fry’s “unlikely” decision to just keep walking to deliver his note to a terminally ill friend, rather than mail it, has all manner of intriguing elements – a mysterious break in the past with said friend; a mysterious lack of communication between father and son; and a mysterious (or maybe not so mysterious) lack of communication between Harold and his wife. The meandering way that all is revealed fits the long, somewhat roundabout journey that Harold takes through England, and culminates in a surprisingly satisfying, emotionally wrenching ending. Getting to the end, however, was touch and go due to the absurdly obvious pronouncements that repeatedly punctuate Harold’s journey. Everything that happens is pre-digested, re-stated, and spoon-fed back again: “The past was the past; there was no escaping your beginnings. Not even with a tie.” “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.”  “But it was never a race. It was the journey that mattered.” Was the author worried that the reader would be too young, distracted, or stupid to understand the events and interactions they just read about? Harold’s irritating tic of stating the obvious did make me consider giving him a toss, but I didn’t, and I’m glad I didn’t. The guts of the book are good, Harold is basically a sweetie, and the end does totally deliver.

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Silver's Reviews's thoughts on "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel"
updated on:9/2/2012

Who would think that taking a 500-mile walk would bring all one's emotions to a head and invite self-reflection as well as regret?

Harold Fry never knew that a letter from an old friend would elicit so many emotions, and he never would have thought he would do what he was doing or how he was doing the 500-mile walk to his friend Queenie who was dying of cancer.

As you are reading about Harold's walking and his promise, you are probably asking yourself this question as I did: Why in the world is he continuing on this journey when it is becoming impossible to walk and to fulfill his promise.  I would have accepted any ride that was offered. :) Harold did meet a number of interesting people, though, and his wife who was left at home was making friendships and regretting that she and Harold had never had a deep relationship. 

The adjective, MARVELOUS, on the ARC's book cover undeniably describes this book.  Additional adjectives such as SPECTACULAR and SPLENDID would also be revealing terms. The author made this mundane topic of a 500-mile walk to see a friend not mundane at all.  Ms. Joyce had beautiful descriptions of landscapes, feelings, conversations, and thoughts about friendship and family.  She drew you right into the book from page one.  

You will find that this read is very profound and thought-provoking. Nothing but praise for this remarkable book....the characters and the storyline are exceptional.   

The book is also a tribute to the decency of the human race for their concern and their support of a cause a fellow human being believed in.  This book is also an inspiring emotional ride...have tissues handy and be prepared to be thinking about your own life....the regrets as well as the pleasures.  5/5

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Book Junky's thoughts on "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel"
updated on:8/22/2012

This book was just… pleasant. I enjoyed it every time I picked it up. The writing had such an easy flow that just felt... nice. It's a big warm fuzzy of a book that looks at a lot of disfunction and sorrow all at the same time. The story naturally progressed and you could really feel like you were in the mind of Harold and taking this journey with him. I loved how the writer incorporated the backstory into the journey. It never felt forced, but skipped around as anyone's mind does. Parts were predictable but there are a few twists I did not see coming. Well done Ms. Joyce. Couple all that with some good underlying lessons about getting outside of our normal and quieting the mind to really work through things was great. Harold seems so real and approachable with his regrets, growth and hope. I loved watching him evolve. This is a sweet read that is sure to bring about some good book club discussions. 

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peacejanz's thoughts on "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel"
updated on:1/1/1900

This was one of the nicest books I have read in a long time.  Maybe because I am getting older, I could appreciate it.  Good character development and Joyce is such a lovely writer.  Every word was a joy. 
Not all believable but interesting issues - immigrants, homeless, memories, what if?  I suppose this is a book about marriage also.  Read it and enjoy.  peace, janz


"The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel"
By Rachel Joyce

Average Rating:
Unleash it
3.83 out of 5 (6 Clubie's ratings)

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