The concept behind Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is beautifully simple, yet at the same time it’s a book that is packed with emotion, self-doubt and heartache that’s sure to hit a nerve with every reader.
It begins when Harold Fry receives a letter from an old colleague and friend informing him that she has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. What starts as a trip to the nearest post-box to send a letter expressing his condolences turns into an epic journey across the country. Without a map, a change of clothes or a mobile phone Harold’s walk is dependent completely on his instincts, the kindness of strangers and the strength of his belief in the fact that if he keeps on walking, Queenie will keep on living.
Harold’s walk seems so simple on the outside. As he describes it, it’s just putting one foot in front of the other. But as he attempts to walks from Cornwall to Berwick-upon-Tweed, Harold is forced to confront the tragedies of his past, his estrangement from his wife and growing detachment from the world.
Left behind, his wife Maureen is also battling her own demons as she struggles with feelings of repressed loss and anger. Harold’s walk and the space left by his absence, prompts her own personal journey.
The bit I loved most about this book was how the two central characters somehow, against the backdrop of everything that’s happened in their lives, managed to find a way to rediscover their love for each other. It’s an intense and emotional read and it really drives home the fact that it’s never too late to change.