The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce

I rarely print the publisher's description of a book in my reviews, but in this case, I just don't think I could summarize it any better:

Meet Harold Fry, recently retired.  He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast.  Little differentiates one day from the next.  Then, one morning, the mail arrives and there is a letter addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn't seen or heard from in twenty years.  Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye.  Thus begins the unlikely pilgrimage at the heart of Rachel Joyce's remarkable debut.  Harold Fry is determined to walk six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick upon Tweed because, he believes, as long as he walks, Queenie Hennessey will live.

If this sounds like a quiet, quirky British novel....well, that's exactly what it is.  Harold and Maureen are quiet, unassuming people who hardly even talk to one another.   Much of Harold's walk is solitary, although he meets a few interesting characters along the way.  Still, as the story goes on, both characters delve into their pasts and reveal the heartaches, regrets, and secrets they kept hidden.

Much like Harold's walk itself, The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a meandering journey, with details revealed like new landmarks along the way.  My initial thought was that this book was a little slow for summer, when my taste tends to lean more toward the lighter "beach read" sort of material.  But the more I read and the more I came to know Harold and Maureen (especially Maureen, she is a gem!), the more I liked the story, and especially the author's understated style of writing.  The ending was especially beautiful, I thought, and not in a way I very much expected.

I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for review.  All opinions expressed are entirely my own.  For more reviews and information about this title, check out the full tour post here.

I am giving away one copy of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, compliments of the publisher, Random House.   To enter, just leave a comment on this post.  I will select a random winner on Wednesday, August 1, at 10:00 p.m.  (Requires a U.S. mailing address to win.)

The winner of the giveaway for The Homecoming of Samuel Lake is Jessica R.  Congrats, and I hope you love it as much as I did!  (Jessica, I will pass your address to the publisher to mail the book.)


  1. Jessica RousseauJuly 26, 2012 1:39 PM

    Would love to read this one!

  2. I love the sound of this book. Often times a quite read is just what is needed. Thanks for the review and the chance!


  3. "understated" seems like the perfect word for this book. It doesn't seem like much to begin with but I've seen so many amazing reviews that I'm certain there is a great deal to love in this book!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  4. I've wanted to read this one since learning of it from a book club member. Thanks for the giveaway!

  5. I would love to win a copy of this book - sounds very enjoyable.

  6. This looks like a really great book - and long-listed for the Booker too! I like your description of the book and Harold's journey as "meandering" - I like a story that goes off in different directions. Life rarely moves in a straight line, right?


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