The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry Written by Rachel Joyce published by Black Swan
A tale of a walk of 627 miles in 87 days from Kingsbury to Berwick
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, is a work of nonfiction. A story about a man who went for a very long walk. I would describe it as an old-fashioned English story; quaint, sweet, innocent & sad. In short the main character the elderly retired Harold is living an intolerable existence, his wife barely speaks or looks at him, they live separate lives both thwarted by the experience of their son’s suicide.
The story takes off really when Harold gets a letter from someone called Queenie to tell him she remembered his kindness and wanted to thank him and that she was dying.
He wants to do the right thing but isn’t sure what it is. Initially, he is going to post a letter to her but just can’t face it and feels, in the light of someone dying a letter was nowhere near adequate. He starts walking to a letterbox not quite able to post it.
After meandering past 3 or 4 post-boxes he gets the idea to keep walking and personally visit Queenie. This mission starts in Devon where he lives, to Berwick (in Northumberland but on the border of Scotland) where she is dying in a hospice.
We are not too sure who this character Queenie is at this point. A lot of the background isn’t revealed until midway in the walk. At this point Harold is extremely undernourished and ill-prepared for an arduous distance of 600 miles.
The story of how his life became so unbearable becomes clear as the walk evolves.
He meets waifs and strays along the way, and even becoming a minor celebratory with many people jumping on the bandwagon with their own reasons for being out there! There are pleasurable aspects and a newfound joy to be discovered in the simplicity of walking and living outdoors.
He discovers that life still holds many beauties under an English sky and countryside, something he had forgotten to take time to appreciate.
He encounters both a painful recollection of what it is he is escaping and the joy of not knowing where he is going, the unknown future he is moving towards. It is about reconciliation and redemption. A fantastic read.
For further reading to do with walking see my Best Reads Page. Good Reads
Until next time, we all have walks we can do for many reasons