In Rachel Joyce's ambitious novel "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry", retirement is not treating Harold Fry well. Not used to having him home all the time, his wife is starting to be agitated by everything he does, and with little else to do, Harold is terribly bored. One morning their bickering is disrupted by a mysterious letter from a forgotten friend, Queenie Hennessy, wishing Harold well and saying her last goodbyes.
On his way to mail his reply back to Queenie, Harold is inspired to deliver his goodbyes to her in person. Determined that as long as he walks Queenie will live on, Harold sets out to walk the 600 miles to his old friend's bedside. His wife, glad to be rid of him for a while, wishes him well and lets him go even though he's off to see another woman.
Harold sets out to save a friend and ends up on an adventure. Throughout his journey he finds one quirky stranger after another, and each of whom takes him back to the man he used to be and the things he loved about his life before it got boring. By the time he makes his way to Queenie, the old Harold has been reawakened, he's found a new vigor for life, and he is set on saving his friend. Will he succeed?
Harold's story is beautifully written, and delivers a poignant message about living and what happens when you forget what life is all about. As Harold travels with his ever-growing band of pilgrims, the reader travels with him, and Joyce does a terrific job of hooking the reader on every word.
Rachel Joyce is a British author and lives with her husband and children in Gloucestershire. While she does have experience writing plays for BBC Radio Four, and has won the Tinniswood Award for Best Radio Play, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is her debut novel. At the 2012 National Book Awards, Rachel won the "Writer of the Year" Award.
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. Download and start listening now!