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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

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An interview with Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Praise for The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

“[A] gorgeously poignant novel of hope and transformation.”—O: The Oprah Magazine

“You have to love Harold Fry, a man who set out one morning to mail a letter and then just kept going. . . . Like Christian in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Harold becomes Everyman in the eyes of those who encounter him. . . . Harold’s journey, which parallels Christian’s nicely but not overly neatly, takes him to the edge of death and back again. It will stick with you, this story of faith, fidelity and redemption.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“For all of us perfectly responsible, stoop-shouldered suburbanites wearing a path in the living-room carpet, Harold’s ridiculous journey is a cause for celebration. This is Walter Mitty skydiving. This is J. Alfred Prufrock not just eating that peach, but throwing the pit out the window, rolling up his trousers and whistling to those hot mermaids. Released from the cage of his own passivity, Harold feels transformed, though he keeps his tie on. . . . In this bravely unpretentious and unsentimental tale, she’s cleared space where miracles are still possible.” —Washington Post
“[R]emarkable. . . . I can’t think of a better recommendation for summer reading. And take your time, just as Harold does.”—USA Today, four out of four stars review

[A] story of present-day courage. . . . .  about how easily a mousy, domesticated man can get lost and how joyously he can be refound.”—Janet Maslin, New York Times

“From its charming beginning to its startling and cathartic denouement, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a comic and tragic joy.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer

“When it seems almost too late, Harold Fry opens his battered heart and lets the world rush in. This funny, poignant story about an ordinary man on an extraordinary journey moved and inspired me.”—Nancy Horan, author of Loving Frank

“There’s tremendous heart in this debut novel by Rachel Joyce, as she probes questions that are as simple as they are profound: Can we begin to live again, and live truly, as ourselves, even in middle age, when all seems ruined? Can we believe in hope when hope seems to have abandoned us? I found myself laughing through tears, rooting for Harold at every step of his journey. I’m still rooting for him.”—Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife

“The odyssey of a simple man . . . original, subtle and touching.”—Claire Tomalin, author of Charles Dickens: A Life

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry takes the most ordinary and unassuming of men and turns him into a hero for us all. To go on this journey with Harold will not only break your heart, it might just also heal it.”—Tiffany Baker, author of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County

“A gentle and genteel charmer, brimming with British quirkiness yet quietly haunting in its poignant and wise examination of love and devotion. Sure to become a book-club favorite.”— Booklist

My Review

“They made assumptions. They thought it was a love story, or a miracle, or an act of beauty, or even bravery, but it was none of those things.”

“Harold was an old man. Not a walker let alone a pilgrim. Who was he hoping to fool?”

I couldn’t help remembering Forest Gump the movie and Tom Hanks running across the land when reading the first few chapters of this novel.
On a more serious note there is a more real and serious purpose to the walk of Harold Fry our main host, the main character of this story.
A pilgrim on the road,
a one retired man,
with no aid of a map or a mobile phone.
A one denzin of Kingsbridge, South Devon, on a walk to Berwick, North of England.
In Berwick an ailing friend with terminal cancer awaits death and Harold is on a quest a rather personal quest philosophical, emotional, and breaking of shackles of despair, a caged bird wishes to free himself and ultimately understand and love the greater things in life once more.
Poignant, funny, Touching, heartwarming, heartbreaking and awe inspiring.
What more can I say.
The author has taking just a handful of characters and simple plot and successfully crafted this into story that will stay somewhere pleasant with me for many circles of the night.

You never know in the future one day you may find a band of pilgrims, readers paying homage to this tale by treading along the same route in aid of raising money for charity.

“Small clouds sent shadows scurrying across the land. The light was smoky over the distant hills, not with the dusk but with the map of space that lay ahead. He pictured Queenie dozing at one end of England and himself in a phone box at the other, with things in between that he didn’t know and could only imagine: roads, fields, rivers, woods, moors, peaks and valleys, and so many people. He would meet and pass them all. There was no deliberation, no reasoning. The decision came in the same moment as the idea. He was laughing at the simplicity of it.”

“As Harold made is way north towards Gloucestershire, there were times when his steps were so sure they were effortless. He didn’t have to think about lifting one foot and then the other. Walking was an extension of his certainty that he could make Queenie live, and his body was a part of that too. These days he could take the hills without thinking; he was becoming fit, he supposed.
Some days he was more engrossed in what he saw. He tried to find the right words to describe each shift; only sometimes, like the people he had met, they began to jumble. But there were days when he wasn’t aware of himself, or his walking, or the land. He wasn’t thinking about anything; at least not anything that was related to words. He simply was.
He felt the sun on his shoulders, watched a kestrel on silent wings, and all the time the ball of his foot pushed his heel from the ground, and weight shifted from one leg to the other, and this was everything.
Only nights troubled him. He continued to seek modest accommodation, but the inside world seemed to stand as a barrier between himself outside. Curtains, wallpaper, framed prints, matching hand and bath towels; these things had become superfluous and without meaning. He threw the windows open, so that he could continue to feel the presence of the sky and the air, but slept badly. Increasingly he was kept awake by images from the past, or dreamed of his feet lifting and falling. Getting up in the early hours, he watched the moon at the window and felt trapped. It was barely light these days when he paid with his debit card and set off.
Walking into the dawn, he watched with wonder as the sky flamed with strong colour and then faded to a single blue. It was like being in an altogether different version of day, one that held nothing. He wished he could describe it to Maureen.”

The route of Harold Fry South to North can be viewed on this map.