Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: July 24th 2012 by Random House Publishing Group
(first published March 15th 2012)
Harold feels like he is stuck in a rut; life seems to have passed him by. His forty-six year marriage to Maureen has become a matter of routine and neither one of them is happy at all. Harold is emotionally estranged from almost everyone and he is leading an insular life since retirement 6 months ago.
But, that was all before the day the letter from Queenie Hennessy, an old work colleague with whom he has had no contact for over twenty years, arrived. The Letter, the one that that would change his life. He quickly pens a reply that he is sorry and on the way to post it, he makes an almost spur of moment decision to walk from Dorset, in the south of England, to Berwick -on-Tweed in the north, to say goodbye to Queenie Hennessy. He calls the nursing home she is in and leaves a message for Queenie to hang in there because Harold Fry is on the way.
Harold's pilgrimage opens him up to life again and his introspective look back on his life is most revealing, especially in his relationship with Maureen and his son David. I grew to be very fond of Harold and felt sorry for him at times but then cheered him on for his journey and his new found joie de vivre.
"In walking, he freed the past that he had spent twenty years seeking to avoid, and now it chattered and played through his head with a wild energy that was it's own. He no longer saw distances in terms of miles. He measured it with his remembering."
Maureen was very relateable but not very likeable at first. She started to grow on me especially when she began talking to Rex, the next door neighbor, and told him in a way she was proud of Harold's decision to walk such a distance. Home alone, Maureen begins her own introspective journey. This seemed to be the turning point for her in her relationship with Howard and how she viewed life in general. At the end I really liked Maureen.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is one of those quiet stories that sneaks up on you; not a lot of fast paced action but a poignant and moving story that gets right to the heart. Although, I have to say the twist at the end just blew me away. Did not see that coming at all! Finely crafted, perfectly paced, I could picture it all as the plot progressed. Wonderful debut novel! 4****
Disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided by SA/Random House in exchange for my honest opinion.