Harold Fry now in his 60’s, retired and living with his wife in their English village home has come to expect…
Life is quiet and unsurprising. Each day his mere existence and his wife’s avoidance makes the silence between them earth shattering loud. Retirement is not awesome.
Then one morning a letter comes in the mail. It is from a co-worker that Harold once had named Queenie Hennessy. She has terminal cancer and has written to say good-bye.
Harold is struck by this message with a deep sadness. He quickly writes a response to her, tells Maureen his wife that he is heading out to the mailbox and walks out of the house. As Harold passes his own mailbox, and heads into town where he passes two more, he has an encounter with a young girl at a restaurant who inspires him (unaware) to deliver Queenie’s letter in person. Harold believes that as long as he is walking to Queenie, she can not die. With only his boat shoes and a light jacket, Harold starts the 600 mile walk from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick… meeting along the way kind people who take him in. As Harold’s pilgrimage continues he has a lot of time to think about his past, his wife, his son… losses and regrets… and of course, what he has never told Queenie.
You know those books you always mean to read but never seem to get around to doing it? That is what The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was to me. When recently it was on a sale at Audible.com, I snatched it up on audio.
Harold Fry was a likable protagonist who had carried a lot of memories both good and bad, throughout his 60+ years. As life tends to do, Harold stayed busy moving forward and never dealing with his past. His Pilgrimage gave him the time he needed, alone to sort through what his life has been… and what it could still be.
This book is brilliant. While on one hand you could say an elderly man trucking 600 miles with no plan is a bit ridiculous – it works. When you understand that Harold needs to have a mission in his life and this is the moment he chooses… it works. It really does.
Jim Broadbent was an amazing narrator, he handled the different characters in the book smoothly. His tone made for an excellent listen, very well paced and fit for what I would imagine Harold Fry sounding like.
Overall this book is surprisingly deep and one that really makes you think about your own life. Thoroughly enjoyed.
Update: I recently acquired an audio version of the follow up to this book, The Love Song Of Miss Queeny Henessy. I am so excited to get to this listen and am curious about the narration of Celia Imrie who I believe is a new narrator to me.