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

Is there anybody out there that would read just about anything? I would! A lot of the time I barely even look at the book cover, let alone read the blurb. I also like to save books about to be dumped which is how The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce came into my possession.

Harold Fry is a recently retired man who isn’t exactly loving life at the moment. When he learns that his old friend Queenie Hennessy, whom he hasn’t seen in over 20 years, is dying, he is convinced that delivering a letter to her is the only way to save her. So, he sets off on a 600-mile journey to do so – on foot.

I did find it hard to understand how there have been many rave reviews about this book. I felt that this was not a very exciting story. Instead, it was quite ordinary. This disappointed me at first but, upon reflection, I think it couldn’t have been any other way. This is a story about ordinary people and if anything crazier had happened Harold during his pilgrimage, it would not have been a true reflection of the characters. Joyce’s simple writing style adds to this “ordinary story” and allows the book to become an easy read.

It was the characters which I loved the most about this story and I believe it was in the creation of them that Joyce put her heart and soul. Because of them, about halfway through the story, I found myself becoming emotional as aspects of love, loss, and life in general start surfacing – ordinary, everyday feelings. These feelings made the story raw and real.

What stood out the most for me in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was the idea of the journey. Not everyone will partake on a 600-mile journey on foot in their lives, but there will be times in life where it is important not only to have the courage to move forward, but also to look back and resolve the past. The journey shows what life has to offer if you just put yourself out there: Harold is a timid man who barely even speaks with his wife, but the journey allows his to open up to many varied people.

I don’t think this is a book I will ever read again, still, I haven’t been able to part with my copy. I am also toying with the idea of purchasing The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy. I suppose I am like Harold; you don’t always have to understand why you are doing something. Sometimes it is just enough to follow your heart.


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