Book Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

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Over a breakfast scented with the aromas of freshly brewed good coffee and just baked homemade baguettes, I found my fingers trailing the latest stack of books that I’ve brought from the UK and hovering several time over the “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry”. Its not a new book per say, its been there for a few years and sold over 2 million copies apparently but its because of its sequel -that I also bought- that I found out about it and will review it here when I’m done. Let’s just say I was intrigued enough to choose this book from the more-than-few that I have in my bookshelves waiting to be read and I’m glad I did.

One day 65-years-old Harold Fry receives a letter from Queenie Hennessy, an ex-coworker and a friend he lost touch with 20-years-ago. Her letter stirs something in him and he replies immediately, only when he decides to post the letter to Queenie he finds himself walking, and walking. and when he finally realises what he is doing he is determined to walk from one end England to another for Queenie. Why? What he thinks he will achieve when he walks? That is what made me reach out for the book, and I loved it.

The pilgrimage is very simple really, Harold didn’t even intentionally make it out as one. It is Harold’s retirements, failures, and skeletons in his closet that he is setting free and shaking off, step by step, town by town, that seems to set Harold free. Frankly I was waiting for Harold to give up at every chapter, to simply hop on a car or a train and call it quits walk-wise, I am sorry to say I was a reader who doubted Harold, he is an old man after all. As Harold walks, you learn more and more about him and his life-journey and you come to understand the motive behind his journey and in a way it makes you take a look at your own life-journey and whatever you have buried in your closet.

Does Harold make it? Will he make peace with his past? Are Harold and Queenie really only friends or was there more to their relationship? These questions will hang over the pages until the very last page and in the end you’ll stumble in quite a twist on the road that you’ll be tempted to go back and read a bit more again. This is a story unlike anything that I’ve read before and it is quite intriguing, I’d highly recommend it but be warned, sometimes you’d be so frustrated with Harold you’d want to throw the book away, don’t give up on him, wait for him to finish his story.

Another reason to read this book? The sequel “The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy” which I’m loving even more. Though there are depressing bits for it takes place in a hospice, I’m quite enjoying Queenie’s end of the story to the point that I almost want to look Harold up and tell him everything myself, only of course Harold doesn’t exist really and we need to wait till the end of this book to see if Harold got to find out Queenie’s version of their story. If you decide to read the Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, I suggest you get both books and read them back to back.

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