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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Book Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

     There has been a lot of buzz about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (2012).  Another first novel, this one's plot is unusual & unpredictable, but ultimately very captivating.
     Harold is a retired sales representative, married, & living a quiet, unfulfilled life in a small English town. He is an ordinary man, one who does not voice his feelings, who plods on whatever life throws his way. A letter from a former work colleague, telling him that she is dying, but wanting to say goodbye, sets the rest of the story in motion. Harold replies. When he goes out to post the letter at the mailbox at the end of the road, he unwittingly, (at first), starts a long journey by foot, without returning home. As the result of a chance encounter, he convinces himself that his 600 mile journey will help his old friend survive. He carries nothing, walking in “yachting” shoes. His journey becomes a pilgrimage, a tale about the journey being more important than the end itself. Along the way he ponders his life, his marriage, his relationship with his son, all of his past. He meets a wildly varied cast of characters who help him see his life in an entirely new light. His voice alternates in the novel with that of his wife, Maureen; we see her struggles as she also undergoes a transformation as the result of Harold's “unlikely pilgrimage”.
     It is a well written story about faith, persistence, hope, redemption, second chances, & opening oneself to the world. The Daily Mail (UK)'s reviewer said “It's a deceptively simple novel about the anguish of regret, the importance of faith, and the redemptive power of love...humorous, moving and of the best books you'll read this year”.
Do yourself a favour & take a walk with Harold.

Diana Inselberg is a retired librarian and resident of Enderby, who has worked at various Okanagan Regional Library branches.

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