The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryI’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for any book that involves a quest or a pilgrimage. There’s something about the quest that fascinates me. For one, the quest is usually out of character, which means the protagonist is out of his/her comfort zone, which might not always be fun but definitely makes for a good story. Being out of one’s comfort zone also means growth and reflection, which means that usually I learn about myself alongside the main character. This is all very true with The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. With Harold, Rachel Joyce delivers all the stuff I love in a quest book, in a charming way.

When Harold receives a letter in the mail, it’s a pretty normal day in his not-very-exciting, post-retirement life. The letter is from Queenie Hennessy, a person who Harold has not seen in 20 years. She’s writing with sad news – she has cancer and wants to wish him well. Harold writes back the obligatory letter and sets out to mail it, but when he reaches the postbox, he feels somehow that his letter is inadequate. Being at a loss as to what he might do differently, he decides to walk to the next postbox and consider his options. Then he walks to the next postbox, and the next one. When he stops at a gas station for something to eat, he talks to the attendant about Queenie, and is overcome with the feeling that, if he can just keep walking, Queenie will be alright.

Because Harold was not planning to walk 500 kilometers when he left the house, he left his cell phone at home. Wearing boat shoes and a windbreaker, he’s not dressed for a trek. His wife, when he calls her, thinks he’s gone mad – and in a way, he has. But it’s the kind of madness that changes your life – and the lives of those around you – for the better. Harold and his wife will both be different when the journey is done, and that is a good thing.

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One Response to “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce”

  1. Best New Books of 2014: Janet L’s Picks | Wake County Libraries "Book a Day" Staff Pick Says:

    […] of comedy, pathos and social commentary.  Will appeal to almost everyone, especially fans of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce and The No. 1 Ladies Detective series by Alexander McCall […]

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