book review

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

12:08 PM

Summary from goodreads:

Recently retired, sweet, emotionally numb Harold Fry is jolted out of his passivity by a letter from Queenie Hennessy, an old friend, who he hasn't heard from in twenty years. She has written to say she is in hospice and wanted to say goodbye. Leaving his tense, bitter wife Maureen to her chores, Harold intends a quick walk to the corner mailbox to post his reply but instead, inspired by a chance encounter, he becomes convinced he must deliver his message in person to Queenie--who is 600 miles away--because as long as he keeps walking, Harold believes that Queenie will not die. 
Along the way, strangers stir up memories--flashbacks, often painful, from when his marriage was filled with promise and then not, of his inadequacy as a father, and of his shortcomings as a husband. 
 Is it possible for Harold and Maureen to bridge the distance between them? And will Queenie be alive to see Harold arrive at her door?


The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, written by Rachel Joyce, is a heart wrenching novel which takes place in modern time throughout England. It is told in third person point of view through the eyes of Harold, an unlikely pilgrim, Maureen, a bitter wife, and Queenie, the woman who unintentionally gives hope to an unhappy couple and then some. As a person reads this novel, it is very hard to simply accept everything that is being told, given the narrators' personality and harsh childhood. One cannot help but question the character's reasoning when certain events take place, which is probably the only difficulty a reader would have reading this book.

The really great thing about this book is how realistic and progressive it is. It is not one of those books you read in which the reader wishes they could be a character or do something the character does even though they know it is absolutely impossible. Harold Fry did something many people could do, he walked. He walked and he got all the symptoms a person would get after a long walk, and he also got the benefits of a long walk. In his mind, however, he was doing something so much better. Harold Fry was prolonging a person's life. He had faith and then he lost it. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was anything but mono toned, and that is something the author should be applauded for.

I absolutely loved everything about this novel. There was SO MUCH character development, there were struggles, and there were plot twists pouring in when least expected. I was rooting for Harold throughout the entire book and I felt for him. He was such an amazing character, but not because he was perfect  It was all of his flaws that made me love him and want to be there for him, even thought I questioned the way he acted sometimes; but everything got cleared up and it made me cry. Even the characters I disliked eventually got better. The way everything played out in the end was perfect and I could not have asked for a better way to end it. It was a really easy book to read (other than the times I had to try and read through my tears) and I will definitely read it again.

Surprisingly, this is only Rachel Joyce's first novel and she is currently at work on her second and I cannot wait to read it. I recommend this book to everyone; it is definitely worth your time.

Update: Rachel Joyce's second novel is actually out. It is called Perfect and I encourage you all to read it.

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