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Book Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joycecover The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Harold Fry and his wife, Maureen, are retired, living a dry, dusty life so boring, empty of love, and uneventful it can’t hardly be called living. Then one day Harold gets a letter from an old friend (Queenie Hennessy) in Northern England, who tells him she is dying of cancer.
Harold writes out a brief reply of condolence, but when he gets to the mail box, he can’t mail it. It just doesn’t seem right. So without meaning to, without equipment or even good shoes, Harold sets out on a six hundred mile walk to deliver his letter to Queenie in person. He becomes convinced that if he keeps walking, Queenie will live. Along the way, Harold relives the painful memories of his past and works through the deep anguish that has never been resolved. He begins to understand himself and why things happened the way they did, and to find the peace he needs. As Harold begins to relax and enjoy the beauty in nature, he learns how simply a person’s needs can be met, and he gradually begins to open up to others. He meets people of all sorts along the way, and he learns to accept, love, and learn from them. Harold becomes a magnet for others who follow his pilgrimage, help him, and at times hinder him in his quest. Few understand him or the real reason he is walking. And along the way, through phone calls to his wife, he is able to be the catalyst that lifts her from her own self-imposed prison so she can begin to live and love again as well.
This book was quite a change from the fantasy, mystery, and romance that I usually read.  It was an incredible story of the redemption of a person who is almost mummified by grief. The transformation of Harold was so real and touching. I was right there with him in his journey, crying with him, and hoping he would be able to find peace. It was beautifully written, so vivid, and touching. When I finished reading, I was awake a long time, thinking about this story. The only thing I didn’t like about it was the realistic swearing of some of the characters.  Rachel Joyce has deep insights into the human heart and the reasons we do what we do. Perhaps at some point all of us need a walkabout.

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