Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Rachel Joyce

Recently retired Harold Fry receives a letter informing him that his old colleague Queenie Hennessy is dying of cancer in Berwick-on-Tweed. He writes a short note and sets out to mail it, but changes his mind after meeting with an unsuspecting girl who plants the idea that if he walks the entire distance of 627 miles, Queenie will keep on living.

Ill-equipped for the journey, Harold sets off with the wrong shoes, wrong clothes, no supplies, and no cell phone. As he plods along, averaging six to eight miles a day, he develops an appreciation for nature and gains insight into the lives of the people he meets. He also reflects upon his own life journey, in particular the events that led to estrangement from his wife and son.

While I could not imagine myself undertaking such a journey, I admired Harold’s determination to persevere despite the many obstacles he faced. I found myself wincing at each blister and cramp, but rejoicing as he experienced the beauty of nature and kindness of strangers. This modern-day fable is a story of transformation, one that will resonate with readers of all ages.

An award-winning writer of more than 20 radio plays, Rachel Joyce had her father, who was dying of cancer, in mind when she wrote this novel. In a recent interview, she said, “Looking back, doing the book was about trying to keep my dad alive...I thought about an ordinary man doing something extraordinary in a very ordinary way.”

- Joanne Guidoccio

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