Monday, April 1, 2013

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Author: Rachel Joyce
Pages: 320
Rating: PG-13-R (There was more swearing than I was comfortable with, including at least 15 instances of the F-word)

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.

My Thoughts: I wasn't really all that impressed with this book. It's interesting, that's for sure, and a different story line than perhaps you may have read before, but I don't know. It just didn't grab me that well. Maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind for it.

Either way, it is a really good story about healing, both of individuals and as groups. Harold and Maureen have a rocky marriage that has been quite loveless for some time. The walk manages to renew their feelings for each other, slowly and surely. There is also a problem in the book about Harold's son David. You get this feeling that something went wrong with David and that Harold has blamed himself for it for all these years, and Maureen has let him do it. They need to come to terms with their son and with each other. Harold and Maureen were both very well developed characters, but I honestly felt that there was not enough development of some of the secondary characters in the book.

There wasn't really anything inappropriate in it, just the language. And like I said, I felt like there was too much swearing for me.