Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Publisher: Pickwick

Published: September 2014 (first published January 2012)

Pages: 310

Challenges: Around the World Challenge; Women’s Challenge



Recently retired, sweet, emotionally numb Harold Fry is jolted out of his passivity by a letter from Queenie Hennessy, an old friend, who he hasn’t heard from in twenty years. She has written to say that she is in hospice and wanted to say goodbye.

Leaving his tense, bitter wife Maureen to her chores, Harold intends a quick walk to the corner mailbox to post his reply, but instead, inspired by a chance encounter, he becomes convinced he must deliver his message in person to Queenie – who is 600 miles away – because as long as he keeps walking, Harold believes that Queenie will not die.

So without hiking boots, rain gear, map or cell phone, one of the most endearing characters in current fiction begins his unlikely pilgrimage across the English countryside. Is it possible for Harold and Maureen to bridge the distance between them? And will Queenie be alive to see Harold arrive at her door?

My Thoughts…


I don’t even know where to start talking about this book… So be prepared for a review that will likely make very little sense. Let’s start off by clearing one thing up: I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH! It had it all: a compelling story, a wide variety of characters and a gorgeous writing style. Let me try to put some order in my thoughts, so we can at least pretend this isn’t just going to be one of those posts where I attempt to tell you how much i loved this book in 2320495345 different ways.

In essence, this is the story of a sweet, old man who embarks on a journey across England (ON FOOT!) to visit his dying friend. Of course, that’s a really crazy idea to have, especially if it’s kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing, and you start your journey with nothing except the clothes you’re wearing. And that’s exactly what Harold does. And yes, it’s crazy.

If we don’t go mad once in a while, there’s no hope.

I didn’t think this would be a particularly gripping story, but I was oh, so pleasantly surprised when I found myself completely unable to put the book down.

This isn’t just the story of how Harold gets from his hometown to Queenie’s hospice. It’s a much deeper, highly-emotional journey to the depths of Harold’s soul, his past and his regrets, but also his slow discovery of the world around him. Through the people he meets and their own stories, Harold tries to make peace with his past, and understand humanity as a whole in the process.

Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that this was the dilemma of being human.

If you’ve been following me for a while (if you’re new here, WELCOME!), you’ll know I’m a character girl through and through, and these little fellows can make or break a book for me (and now you new people know it too). Well, the characters in this book were beyond beautiful! The author managed to create a parade of characters all profoundly different one from the other, but all equally important to Harold’s mission and personal growth. We get to see snippets of their lives, and understand just how much a chance encounter can sometimes change a person’s life.

I was really surprised by Harold and his wife Maureen. I didn’t much like either one of them at the beginning, but as the story progressed and I found out more about them I started to become really fond of them. And I was seriously impressed by how much they changed throughout the book! I love to see some good character development, and this was definitely the best I’ve seen for a while. I won’t say any more than this on this topic now, because I don’t want to ruin it for you.

You got up, and you did something. And if trying to find a way when you don’t even know you can get there isn’t a small miracle, then I don’t know what is.

This book is definitely a new favourite of mine, and I have no idea how I could have possibly neglected reading this for so long. If you decide to give it a try though, be warned that this book completely crushed my heart and restored my faith in humanity all at the same time. And that’s a really intense feeling, people, trust me!

Overall, it’s definitely worth reading, even though it may leave you feeling like this (I know it did for me):


Rating: 5/5


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