Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Review)

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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Rachel Joyce, 2012
384 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
August 2014
Fictional journeys serve as more than plot devices to move characters from place to place. They represent life passages—from sin to redemption or ignorance to knowledge. Harold Fry's journey is all that and more...but of course he doesn't know it.

In fact Harold doesn't mean to set out on a journey, at first: he simply intends to drop a letter off at the nearest postbox. But then he just keeps going.

The letter isn't enough, not when it comes to saying goodbye to one of the few friends he ever had—a woman named Queenie now dying in a hospice 500 miles away. He must walk those 500 miles to see her in person. This is our first inkling that Harold's trek is meant to atone for some failure in his past.

Putting one blistered foot in front of the other, Harold begins to realize he's part of something larger than himself. Individuals he meets along the way share pieces of their lives with him. As one puts it, "We've all got a past. We've all got things we wish we'd done or hadn't." What Harold comes to understand is that if people needed to confess...

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.

As the journey carries him forward, memories take him back, each chapter going deeper into his past. It seems as if Harold is both running away from and heading toward something.

Rachel Joyce has penned a wonderful story of a man seeking and finding redemption—a man locked up within himself, apart from others, alone and unhappy, who finally gains courage to reveal his deepest longings and unexpressed love.

See our Reading Guide for The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

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