Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

4.2 214
by Rachel Joyce
     
 

ISBN-10: 0812993292

ISBN-13: 2900812993294

Pub. Date: 07/24/2012

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST

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

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Overview

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST

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.

Advance praise for The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
 
“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.”—Nancy Horan, author of Loving Frank
 
“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.”—Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife
 
“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.”—Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
 
“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.”—Erica Wagner, The Times (UK)
 
“The odyssey of a simple man . . . original, subtle and touching.”—Claire Tomalin, author of Charles Dickens: A Life

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
2900812993294
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/24/2012
Pages:
336

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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 214 reviews.
sherriey More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this novel - it is so emotional, poignant and deeply touching. Harold Fry is truly a lovable character that you continue to learn more about and become closer to as the story unfolds. The beautiful language used by the author is so easy to read and I found myself going back and re-reading passages that I had to let sink in again. Joyce is truly profound in so much of this book. I cannot recommend this novel enough - it is a story of love, loss, triumph, perseverance and so much more. It is hard for me to believe that this is a debut novel and I wish Rachel Joyce much success and hope that many readers have the privilege of enjoying this novel as much as I did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The best book I've read in a long time. I hoped I knew what the ending would be, but I was still surprised and in tears.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Without revealing some of the best twists and turns of a fictional character, this is a life lesson given without judgment, without preaching and with quiet dignity. Four of my favorite characters ever reside within the pages of this book. Most of us have regrets; beautifully crafted and integrated long arcs which would make a fabulous movie. One can only hope! This will be a gift to many... there is something here for everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was the best read of the summer for me. I actually started re-reading it right after I finished it. The second time around is even better. There are many lessons wrapped up in this book. Perhaps my favorite is that if you take the time to slow down and look and listen you will understand and appreciate your world and the people that are in it. Rachel Joyce is an outstanding writer. I can't wait for her next novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading this book and loved it so much, I almost want to immeditaly re read it. The last pages were read thru tears that ended with laughter and smiles. I couldn't put this book down.
TheRelentlessReader More than 1 year ago
The simplest thing I can say about this book is that it is outstanding. I could tell you about how heartbreaking and adorable Harold is. I could go on about the sad state of his marriage to his wife Maureen. Then I could babble about how the character development is sublime and natural. I could tell you about the times that I couldn't stop the tears from falling as I read beautiful passages, about how at times I would suck in my breath at the loveliness of some of the quotes. Perhaps I should tell you that you'll know nothing at the beginning but by the end will feel that you know everything worth knowing? What I will say is this: This novel is a must read. Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader
SilversReviews More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't miss this book...it is a treasure. Quirky and heartfelt. I only wish it wasn't her debut as I am ready for more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not put it down and the ending had me moved to tears.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I truly enjoyed each moment of this book, but especially the start. It all begins when Harold Fry learns that a former co-worker is dying in a town far to the north of him in England. He sets out to post a letter to her-- and what happens instead id an unlikely pilgrimage indeed. Each time I feared that Rachel Joyce would make a wrong turn as author, she steered the boat back around and kept it going in newly beautiful and unexpected directions.  I have seldom read more beautiful descriptions of the English countryside. The book is almost worth reading for these passages alone, but in truth each character becomes deeper and more complicated as the book goes on. His unlikable tight-lipped wife for example became in the end my favorite character. A neighbor who seems merely a side-bar takes on a central role. This is the kind of novel I love best, with its mixing of wisdom, humor, sadness, surprises and beautiful prose. I am quite surprised it did not win more prizes when it first appeared, but maybe it's just too darn accessible for the people who give out literary awards. No matter, I have a feeling Harold is doing just fine on his own.  Hope this review is helpful. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written despite a slow start with an 'unlikely' and silly metaphoric quest. The characters, particularly the son's life and family shattered by pertinacious unemployment, elicit retrospection, introspection, and human reconnection. A good read for baby boomers, empty-nesters, and any one interested in lifelong growth.
johey More than 1 year ago
Using simple language, the book still had me stop often to ponder the various elements of the pilgrimage. A loving portrayal of mostly English countryside provides the foundation for Harold's extraordinary walk, transforming him and his wife, and illuminating the reader in the process.
Kate_Sullivan More than 1 year ago
Strange, but lovely. Sad, but uplifting. This is a book I will read again to sop up any lovely bits that I may have missed the first time around.
Ilovemister More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love this book. It was so deep. Harold was someone I would have loved to know. It also shows what a three ring circus things become once something becomes public and how many people love to take the spotlight away from who deserves it. How many people are like the Fry's, stuffing things. It applies in real life that if you slow down and learn to think without distractions you get to know who you are and where you have been.
Manhattan136 More than 1 year ago
The tone of this book is very melancholic, but the imagery and language is so poetic and personal that I couldn't stop reading! The story draws you in, even though it seems to be premised on something sad. I found the ending somewhat unexpected and remarkably hopeful. The language is easy but poetic - definitely one of my favorites in a long time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is truly an incredible book. I don't usually have time to reread books( just too many great books to read) but this is one that I will definitely read again. Harold Fry is one of the most endearing characters I've ever encountered.
dianeprice More than 1 year ago
Really good book.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
“Beyond the window, the sky was a fragile blue, almost breakable, flecked with wisps of cloud, and the treetops were bathed in warm, golden light. Their branches swung in the breeze, beckoning him forward.” The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is the first novel by actress, radio playwright and author, Rachel Joyce. Queenie Hennessy has terminal cancer. With nothing further to be done, she sends a letter from St Bernadine’s Hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed to let Harold Fry, her one-time colleague in Devon, know. Harold, an ordinary man who has always tried hard to be unobtrusive, writes a reply, but on reflection, during his walk to the post-box, deems this insufficient. Wearing yachting shoes, and without telling Maureen, his wife of forty-seven years, he sets off to walk to Berwick-upon-Tweed, a distance of more than five hundred miles, convinced that he can save Queenie by faith alone. Along the way, he encounters the cross-section of society, and is heartened by the kindness of strangers. But he also encounters his own thoughts, fears and regrets. He finds he is no longer able to stop the memories tumbling out of his brain: memories of parents unable to show love, his anxieties with his own son, David, and the events that derailed his marriage (“In walking, he unleashed the past that he had spent twenty years seeking to avoid, and now it chattered and played through his head with a wild energy that was its own.”). In his absence, Maureen, too, is plagued by doubts and misgivings. Queenie’s letter, it seems, has become a catalyst for change.  As the story progresses, the reader becomes increasingly intrigued as to why, twenty years ago, relations between Harold and Maureen distinctly cooled, Queenie left Devon without saying goodbye and Harold has not seen his son since. Joyce’s characters are appealing and multi-dimensional: Harold is immediately likeable despite his many flaws; Maureen starts off stereotypical but reveals hidden depths. Joyce treats the reader to a wealth of beautiful descriptive prose: “…the day fought against night and light seeped into the horizon, so pale it was without colour. Birds burst into song as the distance began to emerge and the day grew more confident; the sky moved through grey, cream, peach, indigo, and into blue. A soft tongue of mist crept the length of the valley floor so that the hilltops and houses seemed to rise out of cloud. Already the moon was a wispy thing” and “Harold lay in his bed, his body so taut with listening he felt that he was more silence than boy” are but two examples.  Similarly, she evokes feelings and mood with wonderful skill: “But sometimes he was afraid that having one son was too much to bear. He wondered if the pain of loving became diluted, the more you had?” and “He felt dulled with such apathy it was like being at the brewery again in the years following Queenie’s departure; like being an empty space inside a suit, that said words sometimes and heard them, that got in a car every day and returned home, but was no longer connected up to other people.” Her description of Maureen’s rearrangement of the wardrobe conveys a poignancy that leaves a lump in the throat. Joyce gives the reader a novel filled with humour and heartache, wit and wisdom. The illustrations by Andrew Davidson at the start of each chapter are charming and the map by John Taylor is a helpful addition. This novel is moving, heart-warming and quite uplifting and readers will look forward to the companion volume, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.  
hotload More than 1 year ago
A bit slow but still worth reading. I got the audio book to listen to on my long commute. Enjoyable. Older people will be able to appreciate this more than those under forty five.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Harold makes an unexpected journey where he makes sense, as best he can, of the major events that happened in his life. Interesting, original, and unexpected.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great read.  I couldn't put it down.  It was interesting how Joyce weaved so much story into Harold's thoughts as he walked.  I couldn't help loving poor Harold.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a brilliant merging of Pilgrim's Progress and Wizard of Oz. Harold is within all of us...we are on a journey to discover our greatest fears and our wildest dreams. We have a place and a purpose in life. But...after a long day of searching and holding on to our dreams, we desire the peace of home. I will read this touching travelogue again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a book club choice and not something I chose. I ended the novel deciding that I was glad that I read it. I prefer knowing little about the plot of a story and this plot is such a big part of the novel's appeal, that I would not ruin your engaging with the characters by revealing their journey. The writing is literary and simple at the same time. The characters are appealing and end up surprising the reader. I think it is a very good read and I recommend it.
avidreaderctb More than 1 year ago
Although it came to me highly recommended, I found it very boring and a bit on the depressing side. I'd put my reading interest in something different.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel is not my favorite, and to be quite blunt felt like a chore to get through. I didn't want to quit before it was over, but I was never truly captivated. Perhaps my hopes were too high from all the good reviews. If I had it to do over again, I would pass on Harold Fry.