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Die unwahrscheinliche Pilgerreise des Harold Fry, 6 Audio-CDs

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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 ha 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. 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 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.


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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 ha 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. 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 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.

30 review for Die unwahrscheinliche Pilgerreise des Harold Fry, 6 Audio-CDs

  1. 4 out of 5

    Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh

    The Harold Fry that leaves to mail a letter to his dying friend is drained by life, full of self-loathing and incapable of mending his ruined marriage. ‘For years they had been in a place where language had no significance’. He just keeps walking in the belief that his journey will save her life. I wanted to shout “keep going Harold!”, to remind him of the adage ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ because Harold’s journey was testament to its truth. A journey just as much about having the courage to reflect The Harold Fry that leaves to mail a letter to his dying friend is drained by life, full of self-loathing and incapable of mending his ruined marriage. ‘For years they had been in a place where language had no significance’. He just keeps walking in the belief that his journey will save her life. I wanted to shout “keep going Harold!”, to remind him of the adage ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ because Harold’s journey was testament to its truth. A journey just as much about having the courage to reflect back as about going forward. Solitude forces him to open the door to his personal demons. Simply walking requires behavior that’s totally out of character; an ability to connect with both nature & mankind. He draws the strength to keep going from his new found awareness of nature's intricate beauty. The humanity of random strangers, those ‘great unwashed’ he’s spent a lifetime tuning out, offer insight and comfort. Harold had abided by the British unspoken rule not to ask for help, yet it is constantly offered, and with such civility! I loved this book on so many levels. It’s unapologetically sentimental though not cloyingly so. It’s a great adult love story that deals unflinchingly with the challenges of lifelong commitment. It focuses on the value of friendship, humility, self-forgiveness and human kindness. And it’s a tremendous 1st novel which I’d love to see performed on stage; this would make for a fabulous play. “it never ceases to amaze me how difficult the things that are supposed to be instinctive really are”

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Kay

    Found at The Sunday Edition: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is the story of one man's faith in his feet. (OneEighteen/photopin) ★★★★★ So well narrated by the wonderful Jim Broadbent. If you'd like to hear a bit of it, go here and click on the pod casts. It touched my heart. Jim Broadbent North Devon coastline The Found at The Sunday Edition: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is the story of one man's faith in his feet. (OneEighteen/photopin) ★★★★★ So well narrated by the wonderful Jim Broadbent. If you'd like to hear a bit of it, go here and click on the pod casts. It touched my heart. Jim Broadbent North Devon coastline Clovelly, North Devon Taunton, U.K. You can see the paving stones. Walled gardens in Taunton. Glastonbury England - The Resting place of the Legendary King Arthur Mendip Hills horse chestnut European Robin Among Apple Blossoms England. Posted by PictureGirl. bluebells along the path in England Bath, England Sheep in Cotswold Stratford Berwick Upon Tweed Northumberland England Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island, Berwick upon Tweed, England - A beautiful romantic 15th century castle accessible from the mainland through a causeway during low tide.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jaline

    One of my favorite places to read during nice weather is out on my balcony. At one point in this book I was out reading, sunglasses on to cut the sun’s glare, and the story gripped my heart to the weeping point. Do I go in so my neighbours don’t see? But I’m wearing my sunglasses. Yes, but the tears are falling from under the sunglasses and rolling down my cheeks. I did come in from outside (no tissues on my balcony) and then I thought, if Harold Fry is brave enough to walk so many mi One of my favorite places to read during nice weather is out on my balcony. At one point in this book I was out reading, sunglasses on to cut the sun’s glare, and the story gripped my heart to the weeping point. Do I go in so my neighbours don’t see? But I’m wearing my sunglasses. Yes, but the tears are falling from under the sunglasses and rolling down my cheeks. I did come in from outside (no tissues on my balcony) and then I thought, if Harold Fry is brave enough to walk so many miles and is not fussed about what people think of him, why can’t I sit out on my balcony and cry about his story? As I was reading, I really did want to hug this book – and I still do. Even more, I want to hug all the characters in this book. This is indeed a love story. It is about love of spouses, love of children, love of parents, of neighbours, of friends who made sacrifices, of strangers with hearts alive with their own loves. It is also about love of nature, of the plants that feed us, wild and domesticated; and it is about love of beautiful sunrises and sunsets, of springs and myriad shades of green. This book is also about the fractures and fissures that love creates while building itself. At first I could not imagine how a pilgrimage could take up an entire book. As I read, I was reminded that a pilgrimage is a journey, and as with any journey that any person undertakes, they bring themselves along. Their thoughts, their hurts, their tender moments, and the bitter. I am now amazed how just one book contained so much. I recommend this book to anyone who is open to being moved – and changed – by sharing a journey through life’s pains and joys with a fellow pilgrim.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Three star review has moved to Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud. But really, there are better ways to spend your eyeblinks than reading this mawkish treacle.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Adina

    4.5* but I am feeling generous This is one those books that I call "tear-jerkers". Their common characteristic is that the reader is more or less subtly manipulated to feel very sorry for the characters and shed a tear or two or 10. The problem with the genre is that you either fall for the trap or you don't. If you don't, the manipulation devices become obvious, annoying and you tend to distance yourself from the plot and the characters. At least this is what happens to me with most of these bo 4.5* but I am feeling generous This is one those books that I call "tear-jerkers". Their common characteristic is that the reader is more or less subtly manipulated to feel very sorry for the characters and shed a tear or two or 10. The problem with the genre is that you either fall for the trap or you don't. If you don't, the manipulation devices become obvious, annoying and you tend to distance yourself from the plot and the characters. At least this is what happens to me with most of these books. Well, not this time. I got totally immersed in Harolds Fry's journey and yes, I even cried once or twice (or more). One day, after retiring, Harold Fry receives a letter from an old forgotten friend who tells him she is dying of cancer. He goes out to post an answer to the letter and keeps walking North. The long walk to reach his friend becomes a trigger to unpleasant suppressed memories about Harolds unhappy childhood, failed marriage and parenthood, to all the wrong decision he made and wakes up all sorts of dormant regrets. Maureen, the wife that is left home alone baffled by the uncharacteristic act, is going through the same self-dicovery trial. While both characters are not too likeable, I was moved by their story and it made me wonder how I would react in their shoes. I listened to this for the most part and I enjoyed the narrator voice. I thought it went well with Harold's image from my head.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Beata

    A sheer delight to read! This novel will force you to slow down and reflect upon your life...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Isabelle

    I have just browsed through a bunch of reviews that are literally glowing with praise, so I feel rather embarrassed that I cannot be more enthused about this novel. I was really taken in by the premise and rather enjoyed the beginning of the book, probably until celebrity, hype and disciples befall Harold. From that point on, I started to find the book predictable, if not a little trite even. I also think that while I have nothing against a good dose of pathos, this may have bordered o I have just browsed through a bunch of reviews that are literally glowing with praise, so I feel rather embarrassed that I cannot be more enthused about this novel. I was really taken in by the premise and rather enjoyed the beginning of the book, probably until celebrity, hype and disciples befall Harold. From that point on, I started to find the book predictable, if not a little trite even. I also think that while I have nothing against a good dose of pathos, this may have bordered on the overdose. I am very sorry I feel this way, but I do, but I do...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lynne Spreen

    I just finished this lovely book, and I'm never going to forget it. To those who say nobody wants to read about "old people", I'd say, read this book. The fact is, as long as you're alive, you should be open to growth and change, right? But how many of us stop growing after middle age? We find a formula that works and we stick with it, missing opportunities to experience joyous awakening. Maybe we start saying things like, "I'm too old to do X any more." And we shut down, close off. We fail to n I just finished this lovely book, and I'm never going to forget it. To those who say nobody wants to read about "old people", I'd say, read this book. The fact is, as long as you're alive, you should be open to growth and change, right? But how many of us stop growing after middle age? We find a formula that works and we stick with it, missing opportunities to experience joyous awakening. Maybe we start saying things like, "I'm too old to do X any more." And we shut down, close off. We fail to notice the continuing wonder and miracle of life. In this story, a couple in their 60s have made their peace, of sorts, following a horrific event in middle age. They live together, married in name only, settling for having another person in proximity (to take out the trash. To do the laundry. She snaps at him, he looks away.) The author conveys emotion so skillfully, not overwriting by one syllable. Then, something happens, and the husband, Harold, begins a journey both mental and actual - he sets off on a walk from the south of Great Britain to a point 500 miles north. I won't tell you if he makes it or what happens, but I will say that the story was so good, I put it in a class with Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. This author, Rachel Joyce, has achieved this miracle: she describes the sweetness and difficulty of life in such a way that you can't separate the two, and are a better person for having realized this fact. Many thanks to Ms. Joyce for this winner.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    stil mulling this one. sometimes i really liked it and other moments i was...a little bored. there was definitely an overuse of "put one foot in front of the other" that verged on becoming a drinking game. the premise of the story is lovely but it did get a bit schlocky and mitch albom-y for my tastes. mentions of both facebook and twitter in the book were curious. edited to add (pasted in from my comment below, in case people don't read the comments here): you know, the fu stil mulling this one. sometimes i really liked it and other moments i was...a little bored. there was definitely an overuse of "put one foot in front of the other" that verged on becoming a drinking game. the premise of the story is lovely but it did get a bit schlocky and mitch albom-y for my tastes. mentions of both facebook and twitter in the book were curious. edited to add (pasted in from my comment below, in case people don't read the comments here): you know, the further i get from reading this book, the more it is sitting with me in a way that is far deeper than i originally stated. it's an introspective story and deals with a lot of issues quietly - but i have been thinking about the story off and on for the last several days. i think it would make for a really good in-person book club discussion. i had the chance to meet joyce and hear her read and talk about the book. she's a lovely woman and believes so strongly in harold that you can't help but wish the very best for both of them. as far as the booker: it would be very interesting if she/it won. it's not the typical book for booker - it's a simple & sentimental story. but, it's touching a chord with many, many people. that shouldn't sway the judges though. it's a tremendous achievement to have accomplished a longlist spot with a first novel. amazing!!

  10. 5 out of 5

    B the BookAddict

    What to say about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry; a lovely read, a phenomenal book, exceptional and captivating. How I lingered over this book; read it slowly to truly savour and appreciate the story. The author doesn't try to impress you with pretentious words nor does she bamboozle you with a convoluted plot. It's an unembellished story. The 'hero' is not good-looking or rich; he's a simple man who embarks on the journey of a lifetime. I loved the absolute clarity of foresight into the mind What to say about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry; a lovely read, a phenomenal book, exceptional and captivating. How I lingered over this book; read it slowly to truly savour and appreciate the story. The author doesn't try to impress you with pretentious words nor does she bamboozle you with a convoluted plot. It's an unembellished story. The 'hero' is not good-looking or rich; he's a simple man who embarks on the journey of a lifetime. I loved the absolute clarity of foresight into the mind and heart of a very ordinary man. Harold is an unobtrusive, tentative and unassuming person; he has been that way all his life. Now in his 60's, he is filled with regret; feels loss about situations he is no longer able to change. Since his retirement a few months prior, he has done virtually nothing but sit, much to the chagrin of his wife Maureen. Harold and Maureen's relationship has, over time, become one of simply sharing a house; rarely speaking and no longer even sharing a bed. The portrayal of their life together filled me with sorrow; two people in their 60's living together but each in a terrible aloneness. One ordinary day, he receives a letter from an old work colleague, Queenie, who is in a hospice. He sets off to post his reply but upon reaching the post box, realises that a letter is simply not enough. Queenie has been a friend, someone who stood up in defence of him; Harold feels that as Queenie had once 'saved' him, now he will save her. So he decides to walk to visit Queenie. It is indeed a pilgrimage; a walk of faith. He truly believes with all his heart and soul that his walking will save her. Each day he walks will be one day longer that she lives. I've been in Harold's position albeit with a loved one but I didn't walk; I cleaned. So I understand Harold's mission. I know just where he is coming from. The belief Harold has in his walk is infectious; as I read on, I found a little voice in my head saying in my head: 'I hope she lives, I hope she lives' . Although his walk is basically a solitary one, he has some, mostly, wonderful encounters with strangers. He feels their tenderness towards him and as he realises "he feels his own tenderness towards them”. For the first time, “he realises that we are all alone, just putting one foot in front of the other”. But a solitary walk from one end of England to the other gives much time for retrospect. There are contemplations on his life with Maureen, painful reflections on his relationship with their son David and of course thoughts of Queenie. And, with no intent on his behalf, he becomes a minor celebrity: as he encounters people and towns, they cheer and barrack him on. This spurs him on with renewed vigour. Having said that this is a lovely read, I will add that I found the last couple of chapters a bit harrowing: the letter to The Girl at the Garage and what he finds at the hospice particularly so. The ending is bitter-sweet; but I'm glad it was. I smiled in places and I cried in others; a big lump sat in my throat for the last ten or so pages. Ultimately, Harold loses something but also finds something else that he has longed for. Rachel Joyce doesn't offer a warm, fuzzy read; your spirits will soar and they will plummet. If you're going to read anything, then read this wonderful book. Who knows, maybe we could all use a pilgrimage of our own?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Harold Fry has never done the unexpected, having spent the last 65 years living a quiet sheltered life. Retired for the last six months Harold shaves each morning and puts on a tie only to sit in the same chair with nowhere to go as his wife Maureen silently cleans. One day he recieves a letter from an woman from his past who informs him she is dying. Harold pens his reply only to be disappointed by his response so he makes a snap decision to walk across England from Kingsbridge to Berwick Upton Harold Fry has never done the unexpected, having spent the last 65 years living a quiet sheltered life. Retired for the last six months Harold shaves each morning and puts on a tie only to sit in the same chair with nowhere to go as his wife Maureen silently cleans. One day he recieves a letter from an woman from his past who informs him she is dying. Harold pens his reply only to be disappointed by his response so he makes a snap decision to walk across England from Kingsbridge to Berwick Upton Tweed to save her. With nothing but the clothes he is wearing and the small supplies he buys along the way Harold slowly makes his way across the country. Along the way Harold will initially be critical of himself as he sees himself alone in the world thanks to uncertainty that he had all throughout his life from a young boy, a father to David and then with a wife he no longer communicates with. It's only when he begins going out of his comfort zone by talking to others along the way that he soon discovers the sad and beautiful truth that he is not alone and there are many people just like him that are struggling to put one foot infront of the other. But for all the profound sorrow Harold encounters this is not a sad read. Rather it suggest that new beginnings can always be found and it is never to late to do something extroidinary. British playwright Rachel Joyces first novel is an endearing debut full of emotion. I found myself riding all the emotions with Harold and was willing him on all the way. At the heart of this is a story of a simple man, a threadbare marriage and a fractured country. All of this makes for an unforgettable and thoughtful story. Do yourself a favour and take a walk with Harold a simple man who will get into your heart and leave you with a smile from ear to ear.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    A pilgrim is a traveler who is on a journey to a holy place. And, whether that holy place has an actual, physical location, like a Mecca or a Jerusalem, or is still yet to be determined by the traveler, “your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.” (Joseph Campbell) The pilgrim in this story, Harold Fry, may be the unlikeliest pilgrim as all. He's a 65-year-old recent retiree who hasn't seen his son or slept in the same room as his wife in twenty years A pilgrim is a traveler who is on a journey to a holy place. And, whether that holy place has an actual, physical location, like a Mecca or a Jerusalem, or is still yet to be determined by the traveler, “your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.” (Joseph Campbell) The pilgrim in this story, Harold Fry, may be the unlikeliest pilgrim as all. He's a 65-year-old recent retiree who hasn't seen his son or slept in the same room as his wife in twenty years. Harold has “made a mess of being a husband, father, and friend. He had even made a mess of being a son. It wasn't simply that he had betrayed Queenie (his co-worker and friend), and that his parents did not want him. It wasn't simply that he had made a mess of everything with his wife and son. It was rather that he had passed through life and left no impression. He meant nothing.” Harold is also a quiet man who possesses no spiritual beliefs who, at the novel's beginning, receives a letter from Queenie Hennessy, a former co-worker. In this letter, Queenie reveals that she is in a hospice in Northern England (at the border of Scotland), and that she is dying of a terminal cancer. She simply wanted to thank him for his years of friendship and bid him farewell. But, preposterous though it may seem, Harold is provoked. Provoked by her letter. Provoked to start the unlikeliest pilgrimage to Queenie Hennessey's hospice on the other side of England. As readers, we don't know why he wants to do it, and we don't understand how he's going to succeed, but nonetheless, he starts walking. And, it turns out, “life was very different when you walked through it.” Harold learns pretty quickly that “you saw even more than the land when you got out of the car and used your feet.” He's right. It is through this trek, this unlikely pilgrimage, that we come to know him, to see him. We come to know his wife, Maureen, back at the house, too. And we, all of the travelers on this journey, take this holy trek, too. This is a true pilgrimage: painful, poignant, and humorous. And the author, Rachel Joyce, punched her fist through my rib cage and pulled my heart out through the shards of bone, and whispered, ever so sweetly, “You'll suffer on this journey, too.” Through her writing, I became a follower of Harold's, one of the weirdos who joined him. I wanted him to explain things to me, like, can you fix a marriage, once it's been shattered, and how do you win back the love of a grown child who has turned his face away from yours, and what, after all, is the true meaning of our existence? But Harold doesn't have any more answers than you or I, he can only contribute that “not knowing was the biggest truth, and you had to stay with that.” And Queenie can only contribute that she “had touched life, played with it a little, but it is a slippery bugger, and finally we must close the door, and leave it behind.” Ouch, you guys, and DANG IT. I followed Harold to the very end of this story, which is also a beginning, and I sobbed like a baby through every step. This book is a gift, and I received it. We have not even to risk the adventure alone. The heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero's path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a God. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world. (Joseph Campbell)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I fear I am heartless. Some people I respect as readers give this book five stars and I just can't. Basically, it is about a man taking a walk. Beginning, middle, end. He gets bad news about an old friend and just starts walking, wearing the wrong kind of shoes and without bringing his 'mobile.' Most of the book is about regret and finding his way back to what matters. So, I get that, but it didn't poke through my tough exterior, I guess. You have my permission to call me h I fear I am heartless. Some people I respect as readers give this book five stars and I just can't. Basically, it is about a man taking a walk. Beginning, middle, end. He gets bad news about an old friend and just starts walking, wearing the wrong kind of shoes and without bringing his 'mobile.' Most of the book is about regret and finding his way back to what matters. So, I get that, but it didn't poke through my tough exterior, I guess. You have my permission to call me heartless. I listened to the audio, which may be partly to blame for the plodding pace to the book. Still, Jim Broadbent was a great reader. I shall have to try to find him reading something else! This book was on the longlist for the Booker, but didn't make the shortlist. One book that did is also about a walk, but has far more complexity and emotional range. I'd recommend it entirely. (The Lighthouse) I'm noticing that lately, books about humdrummity are really getting to me. I need some profundity and depth, or lacking that, some interesting characters with interesting lives. Some of Harold's observations: "Life was very different when you walked through it." "Life is made up of people putting one foot in front of the other." "Nobody's frightening, if you stop and listen."

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Ansbro

    Attention all yacht shoe wearers! Please unite for this wonderfully heartwarming, sometimes heartbreaking tale of loss, sorrow and redemption. *REVIEW CONTAINS NO SPOILERS* For reasons unimaginable, some (ahem!) fair-minded readers have offered this cleverly-crafted book an oh-so-generous one star, out of five! Seriously, WTF? It may be true that TUPOHF is more likely to be better-received by mature readers and would also appeal to Anglophiles who are the wrong side of forty (effectively old gi Attention all yacht shoe wearers! Please unite for this wonderfully heartwarming, sometimes heartbreaking tale of loss, sorrow and redemption. *REVIEW CONTAINS NO SPOILERS* For reasons unimaginable, some (ahem!) fair-minded readers have offered this cleverly-crafted book an oh-so-generous one star, out of five! Seriously, WTF? It may be true that TUPOHF is more likely to be better-received by mature readers and would also appeal to Anglophiles who are the wrong side of forty (effectively old gits, similar to myself), but come on! Unworldly Englishman, Harold Fry, a retired brewery salesman pops out to post a sympathy letter to an old work colleague (Queenie), who resides 627 miles away. But instead of doing this, he spontaneously heads off in her faraway direction, wearing clothes that are better-suited for a trip to the local garden centre. In an unconscious attempt to exorcise his own demons, his accidental journey somehow becomes an inspirational, perhaps heroic, pilgrimage. There is something delightfully Quixotic about his unrealistic quest, and readers of this story will find themselves walking with him, in spirit, each painful step of the way. The crudeness of modernity and the grunge of the great outdoors are the antithesis of his usually disciplined existence; the fractiousness of other members of society offers a comedic contrast to Harold's unfailing innocence. Joyce optimistically recognises the kindness of strangers, who are happy to contribute to a good cause; although (because I am English) I would have at least expected a box of KFC bones to have been hurled at his head from a passing car, or for a farmer to have gurgled, "Get off my land!" This tenderly-written novel is the best I've read all year: it will cause you to chuckle from time to time, and there's a good chance it will bring a tear to your eye. So, if raw life experiences have left you mature beyond your years, or if you're a wrinkled old coffin-dodger, about to pop your clogs, this might be right up your street! And please abandon whatever it is you're reading. Release your inner Harold and join his pilgrimage! *Immediately after reading this, if you enjoyed Harold's pilgrimage, please read its companion book: The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy*

  15. 4 out of 5

    M

    What the heck, Goodreads?? What the HECK? Though I did not finish this, I feel that is proof enough of this book's ridiculousness. Maybe I am all the more indignant because I was all, hey, check it out, it got this crazy good rating, and yay, my library managed to get it before I got too old to read, and isn't goodreads amazing because wow it alerts me to wonderful books and SO I DON'T HAVE TO READ BAD ONES ANYMORE EXCEPT THIS TIME I STILL DID! What is it with you people? I mean What the heck, Goodreads?? What the HECK? Though I did not finish this, I feel that is proof enough of this book's ridiculousness. Maybe I am all the more indignant because I was all, hey, check it out, it got this crazy good rating, and yay, my library managed to get it before I got too old to read, and isn't goodreads amazing because wow it alerts me to wonderful books and SO I DON'T HAVE TO READ BAD ONES ANYMORE EXCEPT THIS TIME I STILL DID! What is it with you people? I mean seriously?? Let's start with the writing. We have a nine year old's perception of old people, and small town life, and cancer. The wife is an irritated, fussy woman. The husband is dottering and boring. "It was small as an apology." Hmmm?? Have you ever apologized? It ain't small I'll tell you that. Similes for that sake of similes, I HATE that. "Harold tried to cross the street to avoid (the mailbox) but there it was." There it was, indeed. Wow, really? Even though you crossed the street? You mean that didn't work? Then we have the "plot." He discovers an old friend has cancer and so HE WILL WALK THE LOTS OF MILES TO SEE HER BECAUSE HE THINKS THIS WILL MAKE HER LIVE??? SHE IS IN FREAKING HOSPICE! Keep reading! Says the offended goodreads rater. You never know! Yeah but sometimes you do.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I loved the purity and spare beauty of this sad but uplifting tale. At first I wondered how I could possibly get involved in this apparently absurd story. A retired salesman for a brewery receives a letter of goodbye from an old friend, Queenie, who is dying of cancer, and, on the way to the mailbox with a return reply, ends up setting out on a 500 mile walk to visit her. But it was a quick read and full of pleasant surprises and many special moments where the clouds of life’s travails and burie I loved the purity and spare beauty of this sad but uplifting tale. At first I wondered how I could possibly get involved in this apparently absurd story. A retired salesman for a brewery receives a letter of goodbye from an old friend, Queenie, who is dying of cancer, and, on the way to the mailbox with a return reply, ends up setting out on a 500 mile walk to visit her. But it was a quick read and full of pleasant surprises and many special moments where the clouds of life’s travails and buried mistakes clear away for sunlit visions of redemption and truth. Part of Harold’s impetus comes from a stranger at a gas station who gives him the idea that faith and positive thinking can cure cancer. The other push is “that he wasn’t so much walking to Queenie as away from himself.” He has been shut down emotionally for a long time, with no apparent pathway to bring life back to his marriage or relieve his sense of failure over the raising of his son. I liked how his journey begins to get some flow out of the frozen river of his life: In walking, he freed 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 his own. He no longer saw distance in terms of miles. He measured it with his remembering. When strangers he encounters on the way open up to him about secrets in their lives, I was bowled away by the perspectives it renders, as illustrated here: He was a chap like himself, with a unique pain; and yet there would be no knowing that if you passed him in the street, or sat opposite him in a café and didn’t share his teacake. Harold pictured the gentleman on a station platform, smart in his suit, looking no different from anyone else. 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. There are a lot of hardships on Harold’s journey, which often cast doubt on his new sense of purpose: Harold’s mind grew limpid, and his body melted. Rain began to patter on the roof and against the tarpaulin, but it was a gentle sound, full of patience, like Maureen singing David to sleep when he was little. When the sound stopped he missed it, as of it had become part of what he knew. He felt there was no longer anything substantial between himself and the earth and the sky. Joyce seems effortlessly eloquent in capturing feelings we all have about our insignificance: His footprints, however firm, would be washed away by rain. It was as if he had never been in any of the places he had been, or met the strangers he had met. He looked behind, and already there was no trace, no sign of him anywhere. There is more to the story than Harold’s walk, which would be a spoiler to reveal. A good part of the narrative deals with Maureen’s reaction to Harold’s mission, and there is slow unfolding of the meaning Harold’s relationship to Queenie, an accountant who worked at the brewery twenty years before. I was quite moved by the resolution of the tale. I compare the experience of this read with the revelations of the power of secret grief in Harding’s Tinkers. I also find a nice parallel of outward and inward journeys as portrayed on a grander scale in Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard. Others have pointed out a similarity in form of Harold’s walk with the running spree of Forrest Gump as an outlet for his inability to digest a tragedy in his life. Despite these similarities, Joyce’s rendering of the sweetness and sadness of Harold’s story stands out for me as brilliant and fresh.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    "Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that this was the dilemma of being human." I just finished this book on New Year's Eve, and I'm so happy I did, because this is a book about new beginnings, even the ones begun in the twilight of our lives. I have to begin by being perfectly honest which is, I feel, not only in keeping with the spirit of this book, but also the way that Harold would have wanted it. I feel"Harold "Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that this was the dilemma of being human." I just finished this book on New Year's Eve, and I'm so happy I did, because this is a book about new beginnings, even the ones begun in the twilight of our lives. I have to begin by being perfectly honest which is, I feel, not only in keeping with the spirit of this book, but also the way that Harold would have wanted it. I feel like after what he's been through and having proved himself to be more than ordinarily resilient, that Harold can take the truth. For a while this book really irritated me. It wasn't that I found the characters unbelievable--I actually found them all to be very real and human. It wasn't the setting, the writing, or the pacing of the story-telling. It was the actual walking, or, as the title calls it--the pilgrimage. For the longest time I just didn't understand why Harold didn't hitch a ride, take a bus, hop a train or even get on a horse. The walk to me seemed impractible, unfeasible, and completely unrealistic. It seemed like a mere plot gimmick--hey! I'll write a book about a guy who decides to walk. Another image I couldn't get out of my head as much as I wanted to (once I had thought of it it was just THERE--like a gnawing little itch) was that of another walking (running, actually) literary/film character...Forest Gump. I just kept thinking...this story has been told before...we've seen this. He just starts walking and he doesn't stop. People join in along the way. He becomes famous. He runs, and it isn't about the destination, it's about the journey. Been there, seen that. But somewhere toward the end, this author really pulled this story together for me. There is an effective twist, that was the most heartbreaking part of the story for me, that made me realize Harold had been through circumstances that might render a man quite mad...mad enough to start walking and not stop, and all of a sudden his walk became a lot more understandable and a lot more feasible. I also came to better terms with the metaphorical ramifications of Harold's walk and I quit being so dang literal and worrying about Harold sleeping out on the highway with the foxes without bathing, and I started looking more inward to Harold and his tortured soul. Harold's interaction with Queenie, near the end, is one of the most chilling encounters I have read in fiction. But it was so real, and so true, and so meaningful, I fell for the book all at once, right there at its very close. So if someone asked me what I liked about Harold Frye doing all that walking or what I got from reading about Harold and the circumstances that shaped him until he finally was able to throw them all off there on the side of England's highways...I would first say that I think the author meant for us to realize how we all carry our own particular burdens. That is rather obvious in the characters that Harold encounters and how they had their own unique crosses to bear. "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." But I would also say that I was reminded that it's never too late to start over. That we all have to come face to face with our ghosts, and that doesn't happen on our own time. It happens on it's on natural course undetermined by us (much like all aspects of our lives). I am reminded of the courage it takes to face our demons, and how we cannot begin to live fully, openly, or honestly until we have looked them dead in the eyes, no matter how difficult or implausible the journey is that takes us to meet them.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jon Gilbert

    This is a book that will stay with me for a very long time. It is interesting that some see it as highly uplifting, others as rather downbeat. Me, I see it as a work that truly reflects the regrets, the wasted opportunities and the terribly constricted lives that so many people experience. It made me think about my own mistakes, missed opportunities and the things I could do to make a difference in my own life which makes this book rather more powerful than a typical novel. Harold Fry lives This is a book that will stay with me for a very long time. It is interesting that some see it as highly uplifting, others as rather downbeat. Me, I see it as a work that truly reflects the regrets, the wasted opportunities and the terribly constricted lives that so many people experience. It made me think about my own mistakes, missed opportunities and the things I could do to make a difference in my own life which makes this book rather more powerful than a typical novel. Harold Fry lives quietly in retirement with his wife Maureen when he receives an unexpected letter through the post from Queenie, a woman he worked with 20 years previously who he has not seen since. Queenie tells him that she is dying of cancer. Harold writes a brief letter of condolence, goes to the postbox to send to her, walks past the postbox and then ends up walking for weeks from Devon to Berwick On Tweed to see her. The book takes in a range of characters, sends Harold on not just a physical journey but a mental one too full of highs and almost desperate lows as he has so much time to reflect on his life and all that has happened in it. Maureen too has time to reflect without the presence of her husband. The book accurately depicts what can happen when people either choose to change or are forced to change their situation. The ending is thoroughly heart-wrenching. I am not ashamed to say that I cried a number of times in the last 50 pages as the truth of their lives slowly emerges and the final meeting with Queenie takes place. I would urge anyone to read this book - it is not an easy read and even for a seasoned reader it will surprise at points in time from plot development to the effect on one's emotions. In the end there are opportunities for new beginnings but you never get the sense of a simply saccharine 'happy ever after' conclusion. A wonderful achievement by Rachel Joyce

  19. 5 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    5★ This is a journey to the past. Each slow step, each blister, each new person Harold meets reveals something of the truth of his life to him and to us. An unwanted, neglected boy grew up to be an unremarkable man. But for a brief instant, he frolicked at a dance and attracted the loveliest girl, Maureen. They dreamed and planned and married. They made a lovely home with veggie gardens and had one son, David. Harold worked at the brewery for 45 years for an obno 5★ This is a journey to the past. Each slow step, each blister, each new person Harold meets reveals something of the truth of his life to him and to us. An unwanted, neglected boy grew up to be an unremarkable man. But for a brief instant, he frolicked at a dance and attracted the loveliest girl, Maureen. They dreamed and planned and married. They made a lovely home with veggie gardens and had one son, David. Harold worked at the brewery for 45 years for an obnoxious bully of a boss (like his father), but Harold learned early to escape notice by fading into the woodwork. Queenie Hennessey worked in finances at the brewery and was an equally unremarkable person. Harold used to drive her to inspect the books of regional pubs. Suddenly, after many years, she was fired and disappeared. . . from the brewery and from his routine. We sense unfinished business. Now, twenty years later, Harold has received a letter from her saying she is in a hospice, dying of inoperable cancer. Harold is disconsolate that he never got to say good-bye. Maureen shrugs, says she’s sorry, but please pass the jam. “That’s the marmalade, Harold. Jam is red. If you look at things before you pick them up, you’ll find it helps.” Hardly happily-ever-after stuff. This is not a stop-and-smell-the-roses parable about how to overcome cancer with positive thinking or how to find yourself by following a quest. This is a specific story about the peculiar forces that caused this relationship to form and disintegrate. Many of Harold’s reminiscences (and Maureen’s) are shadowy and disturbed. He and Maureen became more and more estranged as David grew up and left home and rejected them. Harold writes Queenie a letter and sets off to post it. “Harold thought of the words he had written to Queenie, and their inadequacy shamed him. . . .The letter rested on the dark mouth of the post box. He couldn’t let it go.” He continues walking to another post box, gets hungry, and stops for something to eat, explaining to the girl at the garage where he’s stopped that he’s not buying fuel, just walking to post a letter to someone he knew once who has cancer. She tells him it’s everywhere, but: “You have to believe. That’s what I think. It’s not about medicine and all that stuff. You have to believe a person can get better. There is so much in the human mind we don’t understand. But, you see, if you have faith, you can do anything. . . I don’t mean like religious. I mean . . . believing you can make a difference.” About her aunt, “She said it gave her hope when everything else had gone--.” Harold is thunderstruck. Hope! He can give that! He finds a phone, rings the hospice and announces he is walking to see Queenie and they must please tell her to wait for him. “Because I am going to save her, you see. I will keep walking and she must keep living.” He takes off from the bottom SW toe of England to the top NE corner of the border with Scotland (627 miles). He’s an unremarkable man with, at last, a remarkable purpose – to save a friend. He shares his story with everyone who asks, and they in turn, share their deepest fears – as passengers on a plane do. Old ladies at tea (who offer encouragement), professional trekkers (who offer walking and camping tips), kindly villagers (who offer food and sometimes a bed). There’s a map at the back of the book that traces the route with place names for those of us unfamiliar with the geography. I loved the descriptions of the landscape, the weather and the towns as well as the beautiful illustrations by Andrew Davidson. P.S. For me, it was particularly interesting reading this because I had just read Us, the story of a man trekking across Europe after his son, which had the same impulsiveness (and blisters) and a difficult relationship between father, mother and son. And immediately before this, I read Tim Winton’s early book of short stories, Scission, which includes “Wilderness”, the story of a couple whose only real connection with each other is accumulating exactly the right hiking and camping equipment and doing treks together. That was their glue. My reviews of those two are below. Us https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Scission https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*

    EXCERPT: The letter that changed everything arrived on a Tuesday. It was an ordinary morning in mid-April that smelled of clean washing and grass cuttings. Harold Fry sat at the breakfast table, freshly shaved, in a clean shirt and tie, with a slice of toast he wasn't eating. He gazed beyond the kitchen window at the clipped lawn, which was spiked in the middle by Maureen's telescopic washing line, and trapped on all three sides by the neighbours closeboard fencing. 'Harold!' called Maureen abov EXCERPT: The letter that changed everything arrived on a Tuesday. It was an ordinary morning in mid-April that smelled of clean washing and grass cuttings. Harold Fry sat at the breakfast table, freshly shaved, in a clean shirt and tie, with a slice of toast he wasn't eating. He gazed beyond the kitchen window at the clipped lawn, which was spiked in the middle by Maureen's telescopic washing line, and trapped on all three sides by the neighbours closeboard fencing. 'Harold!' called Maureen above the vacuum cleaner. 'Post.' He thought he might like to go out, but the only thing to do was mow the lawn and he had done that yesterday. The vacuum cleaner tumbled into silence, and his wife appeared, looking cross, with a letter. She sat opposite Harold. Maureen was a slight woman with a cap of silver hair and a brisk walk. When they first met, nothing pleased him more than to make her laugh. To watch her neat frame collapse into unruly happiness. 'It’s for you,' she said. He didn't know what she meant until she slid an envelope across the table, and stopped it just short of Harold's elbow. They both looked at the letter as if they'd never seen one before. It was pink. ABOUT THIS BOOK: 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. 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: This is a love story. Not a romance, because there is a difference you know, but a love story. Often, as with the case of Maureen and Harold, we lose sight of the person we fell in love with. We become obsessed with keeping the house clean, and the lawns mown, with the minutiae of daily life. And perhaps we lose sight of ourselves, too. Perhaps this is also a coming-of-age story for, although Harold is in his 60's when he goes off to post his letter to Queenie Hennessy and instead embarks on his unplanned journey, this is really about Harold rediscovering himself. This is a book we should all read, and revisit regularly, just to remind ourselves what is really important in life. 💕💕💕💕 THE AUTHOR: Rachel Joyce has written over 20 original afternoon plays for BBC Radio 4, and major adaptations for both the Classic Series, Woman's Hour and also a TV drama adaptation for BBC 2. In 2007 she won the Tinniswood Award for best radio play. She moved to writing after a twenty-year career in theatre and television, performing leading roles for the RSC, the Royal National Theatre, The Royal Court, and Cheek by Jowl, winning a Time Out Best Actress award and the Sony Silver. DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions. Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my blog sandysbookaday.wordpress.com https://sandysbookaday.wordpress.com/...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gabriela Silva

    “The people he met, the places he passed, were all steps in his journey, and he kept a place inside his heart for each of them.” This was such a powerful book! I'm so glad I took the time to read it. I loved the writing style! BRILLIANT!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Angela M

    I have recently reread parts of this book in conjunction with reading The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy and I am revising my rating from 4 to 5 stars .

  23. 4 out of 5

    Darlene

    It's a wonderful experience to come across a book that makes you think or one that takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions; but every once in awhile you discover a book that does both... The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is one of those books for me. Harold Fry is an ordinary older man who has recently retired from his lifelong rather ordinary job. He spends his days in a regimented, very structured kind of way with his wife of many years, Maureen. It was on one of those ordinary days It's a wonderful experience to come across a book that makes you think or one that takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions; but every once in awhile you discover a book that does both... The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is one of those books for me. Harold Fry is an ordinary older man who has recently retired from his lifelong rather ordinary job. He spends his days in a regimented, very structured kind of way with his wife of many years, Maureen. It was on one of those ordinary days that harold received a letter from an old co-worker and friend,Queenie Hennessy, telling him that she has terminal cancer and wishing to say goodbye. Harold, being an unemotional and non-demonstrative sort of man, felt very uncomfortable with Queenie's letter; however, he wrote back replying that he was sorry and wished her well. He set out that morning to mail the letter.... and what he was about to discover was that his entire world was about to change. Along the way, Harold engaged in conversation with a young woman about how important it is to have faith.. to believe, really believe in something. It was in that moment that Harold seemed to awaken from what seemed a deep sleep.. he became aware of an inner voice telling him that his letter to Queenie needed to be delivered in person. Although he was far from being an impulsive man, in that instant Harold decided to embark on the 600+ miles to the hospice where Queenie was being cared for. Harold believed... he had faith that as long as he continued to walk toward Queenie, she would not die. On the surface, Harold's idea may seem crazy but it began to make a lot of sense. Harold and Queenie were embodiments of the idea that belief in something , combined with sheer will can actually make things happen. And so Harold's journey began.... Although Harold started out as a sort of fearful, underachieving ,ordinary man.. full of regrets about things he had not done and things he should have said but had not... his journey transformed him seemingly into the man he was meant to be. although his journey was long and arduous and several times he nearly lost hope he would ever reach his destination, he reached deep down inside himself and found the courage to continue.. and the hope that continued to carry him forward.. one foot after the other. Reading Harold's story reminded me of a quote by Mark Twain... "Courage is not the absence of fear. It is acting in spite of it." I don't think I would be spoiling this wonderful story by revealing that Harold did indeed reach his destination and although he spent just a few moments with Queenie, his life was forever changed by the journey he had undertaken. Yes, Harold still had regrets but he learned something.. to be gentle with himself.. to forgive himself for not being perfect.. and to let go of all of the things from his life which held him back and kept him from becoming the man he was destined to be. Ms. Joyce has written a beautiful and inspiring story. I simply could not put this book down! As I read, I found myself drawn into Harold's story.. feeling his regrets and determination... even commiserating with him over the blisters on his feet and his painful leg cramps. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Harold is a character that will make you laugh and cry.. and most importantly, he will inspire you to take a look at your own life. Kudos to Ms. Joyce for writing an unforgettable story!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cathrine ☯️

    4.4★ An allegorical adventure that speaks to the reader gently, quietly, and personally. Harold’s odyssey if you will in Forrest Gump fashion taking it one day at a time. Burdened by a life where he has ended up feeling like nothing he did mattered, in a souless marriage that appears to be well past its expiration date, Harold has a destination in mind but of course it’s all about the journey getting there. Haunted by buried memories and words left unsaid he takes a first literal step a 4.4★ An allegorical adventure that speaks to the reader gently, quietly, and personally. Harold’s odyssey if you will in Forrest Gump fashion taking it one day at a time. Burdened by a life where he has ended up feeling like nothing he did mattered, in a souless marriage that appears to be well past its expiration date, Harold has a destination in mind but of course it’s all about the journey getting there. Haunted by buried memories and words left unsaid he takes a first literal step and then many more on a quest to right one of his many wrongs and make a difference before it’s too late. For me it was like getting lost in an adult fairy tale and I loved suspending reality for two days and following along as a pilgrim watching the progress. I would have liked to read this one for book club and some good discussion. If he was on GR I would recommend this one to the Dalai Lama. "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible." ♥︎

  25. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Sweet and wonderful story...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Where to next Sancho? Harold Fry is definitely an unlikely hero. He would also have easily been voted ‘least likely to go on a spiritual quest’. This makes him perfect for this story because it’s about unlikely thoughts, friendships, marriages, what have you. Harold’s quest begins with a letter from a former co-worker he thinks of fondly. They’ve shared a pivotal moment in Harold’s life. He reads the letter soon after he retires from said job and he reads it in front of his continuall Where to next Sancho? Harold Fry is definitely an unlikely hero. He would also have easily been voted ‘least likely to go on a spiritual quest’. This makes him perfect for this story because it’s about unlikely thoughts, friendships, marriages, what have you. Harold’s quest begins with a letter from a former co-worker he thinks of fondly. They’ve shared a pivotal moment in Harold’s life. He reads the letter soon after he retires from said job and he reads it in front of his continually carping wife, Maureen. Harold doesn’t even mean to go on a quest. He scribbles some benign well wishes on a card to his dying co-worker and sets out to mail it and somewhere along that mini quest his journey becomes epic as he decides to walk to her hospice with a vague belief that she’ll HAVE to wait to die until he gets to her. His steps will heal her. He meets many kind, odd, and not so kind people along the way. Mostly he gets caught in his head and in his not so perfect past. He sometimes spins in circles, he has moments of clarity, epiphanies. Usually he just tries to put one foot in front of the other. Even this is a challenge when he realizes he’s going the wrong direction or in loops. There is a place in the book where I was afraid things were going to go down an ordinary path. I felt let down. Then Joyce showed the reason she teased us with that route. I loved the humor in “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry”. I loved the spiritual quest even more.

  27. 4 out of 5

    René

    I won't be pursuing this read. After the first few chapters, the book and I decided to sit down and seriously talk about where this read was headed. The conversation went something like this: ME: Look, I don't mean to appear impatient, ok, I know you're doing your best to hold my attention in this read, but I have to admit to you, and I hope you can understand that this is in no way an indictement of the style or structure, but the whole plot feels rather contrived. TUPOHF: I won't be pursuing this read. After the first few chapters, the book and I decided to sit down and seriously talk about where this read was headed. The conversation went something like this: ME: Look, I don't mean to appear impatient, ok, I know you're doing your best to hold my attention in this read, but I have to admit to you, and I hope you can understand that this is in no way an indictement of the style or structure, but the whole plot feels rather contrived. TUPOHF: Where is this headed? Are you saying you're going to quit reading? ME: Whoah! Let's not jump to any conclusions, the whole goal of this discussion is just to figure out where we stand, and where we're headed, and if we want to go there and how much we're prepared to invest in terms of time and cognitive load... TUPOHF: Look, there are important revelations ahead for our main character Harold Fry, he's going to meet all these ordinary people who are just shock-full of life-changing, earth-moving wisdom... ME: Harold Fry. Let's start with him. I'm finding the character a little wooden, if you'll forgive the expression, but isn't the retiree who always avoided the limelight and just did his best to do his duty while resisting escapist urges a little overdone? Really, there are no Harold Frys in the real world, he's just a straw-man waiting to be blown over. TUPOHF: Yes, of course, and so much will be revealed later, because the woman dying of cancer who wrote to let him know did something for him years ago, something extremely helpful. ME: You've mentionned that. And, having mentionned it, there was no reason to withhold what it was she did for Harold. So what is it? TUPOHF: Can't say. It's a huge surprise. ME: This is blackmail. TUPOHF: Lots of other people would be glad to read me. ME: Maybe so, but I have a lot of books I need to get to, it's not that I'm not enjoying the read, and really I'm quite interested in characters who deviate from the regular course of things to seize meaning for their existence and also characters who are on the verge of dying because only when there's no time left do the important things become so clearly sallient. But the course appears predetermined. It feels a little preachy, to be perfectly honest. TUPOHF: I can only recommend you continue the read. The wisdom of all these people he meets on the road will blow your socks off. ME: I don't require sock-blowing to get into a story... TUPOHF: Just blow your socks off. Mostly poor, hardworking female characters who take the time to articulate to a perfect stranger these golden nuggets of folk wisdom, like chicken mcnuggets of the soul. Most of the male characters are silly, linear thinkers always in a rush through life, always looking at their watches... ME: Oh my, look at the time. No really, I won't be finishing this read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Margitte

    I don't want to say much about the book, since so many have read and reviewed it already. Touching, endearing, realistic, emotional, good. It is one of the books on my To-Be-Read list that constantly landed on top, and I finally relented. I am not sorry at all. I took the time to venture off with Harold Fry with his letter to Queenie, felt the blisters, muscle spasms and emotional denouement as we walked 627 miles from south to north through England to deliver a letter personall I don't want to say much about the book, since so many have read and reviewed it already. Touching, endearing, realistic, emotional, good. It is one of the books on my To-Be-Read list that constantly landed on top, and I finally relented. I am not sorry at all. I took the time to venture off with Harold Fry with his letter to Queenie, felt the blisters, muscle spasms and emotional denouement as we walked 627 miles from south to north through England to deliver a letter personally. We dissected life as it happened for him until his 63rd birthday, and we found closure on many heartbreak and sorrows. And then of course, for moments as the reader, we leave Harold to return to his wife Maureen who stayed behind and had unexpectedly had to confront her own past and how she contributed to the events. It was painful and uplifting. It was dignified and respectful. But overall it was very real. A good experience. This book deserves all the attention it received.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    I was going to wait a while to write anything about this because it was one of those books that opened me up to so much feeling that I wasn’t sure I could corral it all into a coherent summary. But whatever! Turns out that I couldn’t wait to say how breathtaking this story was to me, and how it made me feel. I won’t try to distill the essence of this story in a paragraph or two, because that would be cheating it of so much of its value. I’m pretty sure it will be a personal experience for each r I was going to wait a while to write anything about this because it was one of those books that opened me up to so much feeling that I wasn’t sure I could corral it all into a coherent summary. But whatever! Turns out that I couldn’t wait to say how breathtaking this story was to me, and how it made me feel. I won’t try to distill the essence of this story in a paragraph or two, because that would be cheating it of so much of its value. I’m pretty sure it will be a personal experience for each reader based on their own perspectives, their own histories. Harold has not had an easy life, but he's not the kind of guy you'll catch feeling sorry for himself -- I feel there is so much to learn from that. As he revisited his darkest hours and battled his demons, all while putting one foot in front of the other, I thought about certain episodes in my own life of which I’ve been unable to let go. But I found myself casting a more forgiving eye on that past, rather than a regretful one. In the afterword there is a conversation held between Rachel Joyce and another author. In it she says this: ”Reading is a creative process. As writers, we must do everything we can to make a world that stands up as if it could be a real one. Not necessarily the real one; not necessarily the world the reader knows. But within its own confines, that world must be plausible. It must add up. After that, the reader meets you halfway. The reader fills out your words with pictures, with breath, with feeling.” And that not only sums up what I love about reading, but also what Joyce did so incredibly well when she wrote this story. She gave me Harold, Maureen, David, and Queenie, and she gave me a world to complete with my own experiences and imagination. So in the end, I don’t think this was just Harold and Maureen’s journey, I think it was mine too. I highly recommend, if you have not done so already, to make this your journey as well.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Noeleen

    There is only one book that has ever made me cry. That book is The Kite Runner. I had always wondered if I would ever read another book that would make me cry and if so, which book would it be? Harold Fry… you made me cry and cry and cry and then when I thought I was finished crying…you made me cry again. Harold Fry, now retired, receives a letter from an old friend and work colleague, Queenie Hennessy. Queenie, who hasn’t seen Harold for over twenty years, is saying goodbye. So begin There is only one book that has ever made me cry. That book is The Kite Runner. I had always wondered if I would ever read another book that would make me cry and if so, which book would it be? Harold Fry… you made me cry and cry and cry and then when I thought I was finished crying…you made me cry again. Harold Fry, now retired, receives a letter from an old friend and work colleague, Queenie Hennessy. Queenie, who hasn’t seen Harold for over twenty years, is saying goodbye. So begins Harold’s journey. A journey which will reconcile Harold with his future and a journey which will bring him back to his past. This book examines so many themes; life, relationships, marriage, loss, love, characters, regrets, friendships, those small acts of kindness that are significant from both strangers and friends, the courage and fears we all experience in our everyday lives and the difficulties that can arise when we are unable to or don’t know how to express our thoughts and feelings. This debut novel by Rachel Joyce is quite simply superb and wonderful in every respect. There is nothing I can find fault with. From the wonderful array of interesting characters in the book, the simple yet beautiful prose, the perfect pacing of the story, the delicate and vivid imagery, to the absolute thought provoking, sentimental, poignant and emotional feelings that the story aroused throughout. This is a story which will pull at your heart strings many times, in so many ways. It is a story that will remain with you long after you have finished reading it. I adored this book and it is definitely one of my top five reads for 2012. I have great pleasure adding this to my five star favourite shelf. It is well, well deserved.

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