The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Large Print - 2012
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Recently retired, Harold Fry lives in a small English village with a wife who seems irritated by everything he does. Little differentiates one day from the next until a letter arrives in the mail from a woman he hasn't heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy, in hospice, is writing to say goodbye. Harold pens a quick reply, but a chance encounter at the corner mailbox convinces him that he must deliver it in person. So Harold sets off on a six-hundred mile journey because, he believes, as long as he walks, Queenie will live.
Publisher: Waterville, Maine : Wheeler Publishing, c2012
Edition: Large print ed
ISBN: 9781410453693
Branch Call Number: LPF JOY NVD
Characteristics: 453 p. (large print) : map ; 23 cm


From Library Staff

inthestacks Aug 06, 2013

This novel has its share of moving and genuine passages as it explores the nature of redemption and forgiveness. However, it is so encumbered by clunky metaphors and tired clichés that it is hard to get through it without frequently groaning at its awkwardness. Whatever impact the author hoped ... Read More »

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Mar 17, 2018

This journey story is a little too obvious and trite in many ways. I read it for my book club, and found that in spite of its corniness, there is a true element of the hero's journey in the story. Harold sets out to mail a letter to an old friend who is dying. He can't get it in the mail, so he just keeps walking, and finally decides to walk across England to see her. His wife is left behind to fume and wonder and be bewildered. The family tragedy and trauma is slowly revealed. In addition, there is a dissolution that allows the new to emerge. Entertaining in some ways and in discussion a bit more to bring to the table than the story itself delivers.

ArapahoeAnnaL Dec 14, 2017

It's as if 20 years before the book begins, the main character had been frozen with grief. During the course of his pilgrimage he begins to thaw out and, at times, experience unbearable grief and despair. The tone is lightened by the relationships he forms with those he encounters on his journey and by descriptions of his wife's life back home. His life story is not unusual; he's a kind of every man. Many readers in the second half of life will be inspired with courage and hope through the redemption Harold Fry finds at the end of his pilgrimage.

Dec 04, 2017

I usually read non-fiction, but this book caught my eye because I love stories about pilgrimages and I'm glad I decided to read it. As many others have said, the story will likely evoke a range of emotion in the reader, from "why on earth would anyone do such an unlikely thing as walk so far so unequipped and ill prepared?" to "why is Harold so bent on doing this in the first place?" I would agree with the reader who describes Harold's pilgrimage as an act of atonement, but the reader who said he was walking to see an old love is wrong. Harold has emotional demons to confront, as does his wife, and this is actually a story about both of them that the author resolves masterfully.

Librarian_Deb Aug 28, 2017

I got a little choked up at the end of this book--always a sign that the author is a good writer!
It starts out with Harold Fry getting a letter in the mail--a letter from an old friend who has cancer and is in hospice. That letter sets him off on a journey that takes him across the length of England--from south to north on foot. It also sets him off on an inner journey of remembering the events of his past, which are mostly painful and full of regrets. The walk he takes seems to be his way of atoning for the past, or at least dealing with what happened, as much as a way to get to his friend who is dying. How Harold's choices affect his wife Maureen, and how the people he meets along the way affect him also form important themes in the book.
I read this book with my book discussion group, and we had a lively talk as we analyzed Harold's choices and how the events of the book played out. I would highly recommend this book to discussion groups, and to anyone who enjoys a moving and well written story.

CRRL_MegRaymond Jul 25, 2017

Harold gets a letter from an old love which contains shocking news. He decides he has to hand-deliver his answer, even though she lives halfway across the country.

Mar 26, 2017

I enjoyed Rachel Joyce’s gems of insight into the foibles and triumphs of humanity, despite the plodding, linear storyline with many cameo appearances by other characters. The protagonist is without a sense of identity. But his walk to the other end of England is an act of atonement, and along the way he encounters his pathetic past and finds his essence – his Self. “Pilgrimage” seems an apt word.

Mar 24, 2017

A good story with a surprise ending. I did not appreciate the crude language she uses at times. Surely with her vocabulary she could have chosen less offensive words to use.

Feb 12, 2017

Oh, Harold. Just get on a bus and go see her. Why all that walking with bad shoes? A sympathetic character and a satisfying ending, but many, many points throughout the journey just had me shaking my head. Luckily the majority of my book club agreed with me, so I am not the only one (contrary to the reviews on this site!)

Dec 09, 2016

The power of believing you can make a difference leads unassuming Harold on a walk across Britain to say goodbye to a friend from many years ago. There’s no planning and Harold is ill-prepared to walk, but he does, sending post cards to his friend from many years ago who is dying of cancer. Harold is the perfect anti-hero. He doesn’t want all the media attention his walk has attracted, he doesn’t want the throngs of people who want to join him. He just wants to tell his friend goodbye and thank you. As he walks and reflects, Harold’s life takes shape and you see why his marriage and his relationship with his son has become frayed. But Harold’s belief in the need to tell his dying friend goodbye, leads to much more.

Aug 17, 2016

Loved this story and the characters. Kept me riveted throughout. Would recommend to others who enjoy an emotional read.

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Jun 03, 2016

"Life was very different when you walked through it." (p. 40)
"Harold thought of the people he had already met on his journey. All of them were different, but none struck him as strange. He considered his own life and how ordinary it might look from the outside, when really it held such darkness and trouble." (p. 143)

PimaLib_SherrieB Nov 15, 2014

The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other; and a life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had been doing so for a long time.

Nov 29, 2013

They believed in him. They had looked at him in his yachting shoes, and listened to what he said, and they had made a decision in their hearts and minds to ignore the evidence and to imagine something bigger and something infinitely more beautiful than the obvious.

Dec 27, 2012

“He understood that in walking to atone for the mistakes he had made, it was also his journey to accept the strangeness of others. As a passerby, he was in a place where everything, not only the land, was open. People would feel free to talk, and he was free to listen. To carry a little of them as he went. He had neglected so many things that he owed this small piece of generosity to Queenie and the past.”

Dec 27, 2012

“It must be the same all over England. People were buying milk, or filling their cars with petrol, or even posting letters. And what no one else knew was the appalling weight of the thing they were carrying inside. The inhuman effort it took sometimes to be normal, and a part of things that appeared both easy and everyday. The loneliness of that.”

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Jun 13, 2015

Thehippogirl25 thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over

May 21, 2014

hbrewer thinks this title is suitable for 40 years and over

DanglingConversations thinks this title is suitable for 40 years and over


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APlazek Feb 27, 2013

This quiet novel from a new author feels very reserved and British (and it is). Harold Fry receives a letter from an old co-worker who he has not spoken with in over 20 years informing hm that she has terminal cancer. Upon reading the letter Harold knows he must espond so he crafts a letter and heads out to post it, but along the way meets a girl working in a gas station and explains about the letter. The girl tellls about her aunt who had cancer and says, "You have to believe.... trusting what you don't know and going for it." Something from that conversation touches him and Harold decides he must walk to the Queenie Hennessy -- if he walks she will not die befroe he gets there. The story is mysterious and sparse yet incredibly inspiring and heartwarming. Slowly along the way the story of Harold's relationship with his wife unfolds and we learn about their son, David in bits and pieces. It is not until the end that everything comes together and it is a sad picture of how much time can be wasted with misunderstanding and hurt, yet hope remains.


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