The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
A NovelBook - 2012
Recently retired, sweet, emotionally numb Harold Fry is jolted out of his passivity by a letter from Queenie Hennessy, an old friend, who he hasn't heard from in twenty years. She has written to say she is in hospice and wanted to say goodbye. Leaving his tense, bitter wife Maureen to her chores, Harold intends a quick walk to the corner mailbox to post his reply but instead, inspired by a chance encounter, he becomes convinced he must deliver his message in person to Queenie--who is 600 miles away--because as long as he keeps walking, Harold believes that Queenie will not die. So without hiking boots, rain gear, map or cell phone, one of the most endearing characters in current fiction begins his unlikely pilgrimage across the English countryside. Along the way, strangers stir up memories--flashbacks, often painful, from when his marriage was filled with promise and then not, of his inadequacy as a father, and of his shortcomings as a husband. Ironically, his wife Maureen, shocked by her husband's sudden absence, begins to long for his presence. Is it possible for Harold and Maureen to bridge the distance between them? And will Queenie be alive to see Harold arrive at her door?
From the critics
QuotesAdd a Quote
"Life was very different when you walked through it." (p. 40)
"Harold thought of the people he had already met on his journey. All of them were different, but none struck him as strange. He considered his own life and how ordinary it might look from the outside, when really it held such darkness and trouble." (p. 143)
The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other; and a life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had been doing so for a long time.
They believed in him. They had looked at him in his yachting shoes, and listened to what he said, and they had made a decision in their hearts and minds to ignore the evidence and to imagine something bigger and something infinitely more beautiful than the obvious.
“He understood that in walking to atone for the mistakes he had made, it was also his journey to accept the strangeness of others. As a passerby, he was in a place where everything, not only the land, was open. People would feel free to talk, and he was free to listen. To carry a little of them as he went. He had neglected so many things that he owed this small piece of generosity to Queenie and the past.”
“It must be the same all over England. People were buying milk, or filling their cars with petrol, or even posting letters. And what no one else knew was the appalling weight of the thing they were carrying inside. The inhuman effort it took sometimes to be normal, and a part of things that appeared both easy and everyday. The loneliness of that.”
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SummaryAdd a Summary
This quiet novel from a new author feels very reserved and British (and it is). Harold Fry receives a letter from an old co-worker who he has not spoken with in over 20 years informing hm that she has terminal cancer. Upon reading the letter Harold knows he must espond so he crafts a letter and heads out to post it, but along the way meets a girl working in a gas station and explains about the letter. The girl tellls about her aunt who had cancer and says, "You have to believe.... trusting what you don't know and going for it." Something from that conversation touches him and Harold decides he must walk to the Queenie Hennessy -- if he walks she will not die befroe he gets there. The story is mysterious and sparse yet incredibly inspiring and heartwarming. Slowly along the way the story of Harold's relationship with his wife unfolds and we learn about their son, David in bits and pieces. It is not until the end that everything comes together and it is a sad picture of how much time can be wasted with misunderstanding and hurt, yet hope remains.
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