The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

By Rachel Joyce,

Book cover of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Book description

'Impossible to put down' TIMES
'Life-affirming delight. A comic pleasure' WOMAN AND HOME
'Profoundly moving' RICHARD MADELEY


When Harold Fry nips out one morning to post a letter, leaving his wife hoovering…

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Why read it?

5 authors picked The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

From the whimsical cover to the idea that a seemingly ordinary person is capable of extraordinary deeds (a recurring theme in my own work) I knew instantly this was my kind of novel. Harold Fry, 65, retired and living an unremarkable life in suburbia, sets out to post a letter, and keeps on walking. His stroll to the mailbox turns into a 600-mile pilgrimage – to deliver a letter to a dying woman – and takes in much of the beautiful and familiar landscape of my native Britain. I fell easily into step with this charming character and the community…

Harold Fry sets off on the spur of the moment to trek across England, believing he can save a former colleague with terminal cancer. But that’s not all that needs saving. Rachel Joyce’s distinctive voice makes me feel as if she’s sitting next to me, telling the story, and from time to time both of us burst out laughing. But this heartwarming novel also made me consider how poignant life is, how we make wrong turns, and how sometimes we feel the urgent need to make up for past mistakes.

This is an incredibly poignant story of an old man who goes out to post a letter but then keeps walking… from Devon all the way up England to Berwick-on-Tweed, on a mission… in his yachting shoes. As he meets and listens to people en route, his own tragic past is gradually revealed. Harold made me sob loudly, but there was something so beautiful about his nonsensical pilgrimage; his patience, gentleness, openness, persistence, and, perhaps above all, his hope.

"He saw that people would make the decisions they wished to make, and some of them would hurt both themselves…

As an intrepid traveler and participant in many a pilgrimage, I was drawn to this title. Opening the book I met the aging Harold Fry – meek, nondescript, ineffectual, indecisive. A man you’d walk past without so much as a second glance. But then Harold does the unimaginable, embarking on an unintended 600 mile walk across England to make closure with an old friend who’s dying. With every step, layer upon layer of Harold’s history is peeled back, revealing the deep wounds and losses that constricted his life. Each painful stride sends Harold both closer to his destination and deeper…

From Barbara's list on transforming suffering.

I loved this book and the poignant journey of self-discovery and healing taken by the title character. One morning, emotionally down-trodden Harold receives a letter from a woman he hasn’t heard from in twenty years, telling him she is dying and wanted to say goodbye. Believing that if he walks all the way and answers her in person, she will live, he sets out on the 600-mile journey with nothing but the clothes he is wearing. Little by little, Ms. Joyce uncovers the joys and heartbreaks of Harold’s life. Though her touch is light and simple, her writing is rich…

From Irene's list on uplifting contemporary novels.

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