Sunday, July 15, 2012

Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: July 24th 2012 by Random House Publishing Group (first published March 15th 2012)
ISBN: 0812993292 (ISBN13: 9780812993295)
edition language; English

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.


  1. I'm very curious about the twist at the end now!

  2. Oh this sounds like one I need to read! One that perhaps readers who've lived a bit will appreciate. Adding it to my list.

  3. It sounds like a charming book … and that sometimes all you need is to shake things up a bit.

  4. Can't wait to read this -- sounds like my kind of story.

  5. I loved this one so much that I'm keeping my ARC for a future re-read!

  6. Hi Kaye,

    If I came across this book in the shop, I probably wouldn't give it a second glance. However, having read yur review and checked out the synopsis more thoroughly, it has quickly grown on me as one I need to add to my list.

    It sounds as though the story invoked many different feelings and emotions as you were reading it, and I really need to know what the twist is at the end.

    I don't like to have worked out where a story is going too early on in the book, on the other hand surprises can be real 'I never saw that coming' moments, which leave me feeling annoyed with myself.

    Thanks for a nice review and a great recommendation,


  7. That sounds wonderful! I am going to keep an eye out for it.

    The set up is very much like The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner -- grouchy retiree gets let from a woman he hasn't seen in 20 years, resulting in a reexamination of his long marriage. Weird how book coincidences like that always pop up.

  8. I have been reading so much about this book, and have become really intrigued by it. It sounds like a quiet story, filled with hope, longing, and healing, and that's just my cuppa right now. I loved that reading it was such a moving experience for you and that you felt a real connection to the characters. Fantastic review today. I need to buy this one soon!

  9. Like the quiet...and it got a "wonderful" so will have to find this one...

  10. This sounds good--and a good review from you and Staci certainly helps.

  11. I've been seeing this book so many places lately and have been very curious about it. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it and I'll have to pick it up now. Having the PPP seal of approval makes it a must-have! :)


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