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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel Hardcover – July 24, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (July 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780812993295
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812993295
  • ASIN: 0812993292
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,247 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, July 2012: Harold Fry--retired sales rep, beleaguered husband, passive observer of his own life--decides one morning to walk 600 miles across England to save an old friend. It might not work, mind you, but that's hardly the point. In playwright Rachel Joyce's pitch-perfect first novel, Harold wins us over with his classic antiheroism. Setting off on the long journey, he wears the wrong jacket, doesn't have a toothbrush, and leaves his phone at home--in short, he is wholly, endearingly unprepared. But as he travels, Harold finally has time to reflect on his failings as a husband, father, and friend, and this helps him become someone we (and, more important, his wife Maureen) can respect. After walking for a while in Harold Fry's very human shoes, you might find that your own fit a bit better. --Mia Lipman

Review

Advance praise for The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
 
“When it seems almost too late, Harold Fry opens his battered heart and lets the world rush in. This funny, poignant story about an ordinary man on an extraordinary journey moved and inspired me.”—Nancy Horan, author of Loving Frank
 
“There’s tremendous heart in this debut novel by Rachel Joyce, as she probes questions that are as simple as they are profound: Can we begin to live again, and live truly, as ourselves, even in middle age, when all seems ruined? Can we believe in hope when hope seems to have abandoned us? I found myself laughing through tears, rooting for Harold at every step of his journey. I’m still rooting for him.”—Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife
 
“Marvelous! I held my breath at his every blister and cramp, and felt as if by turning the pages, I might help his impossible quest succeed.”—Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
 
“Harold’s journey is ordinary and extraordinary; it is a journey through the self, through modern society, through time and landscape. It is a funny book, a wise book, a charming book—but never cloying. It’s a book with a  savage twist—and yet never seems manipulative. Perhaps because Harold himself is just wonderful.... I’m telling you now: I love this book.”—Erica Wagner, The Times (UK)
 
“The odyssey of a simple man...original, subtle and touching.”—Claire Tomalin, author of Charles Dickens: A Life
 
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry takes the most ordinary and unassuming of men and turns him into a hero for us all. To go on this journey with Harold will not only break your heart, it might just also heal it.”—Tiffany Baker, author of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County

"Spontaneity has never been Harold Fry’s strong suit, especially once he retired. Just ask his long-suffering wife, Maureen. So imagine her surprise when Harold abruptly decides to walk 500 miles to the north of England in a naive attempt to save a dying woman, a colleague he once knew briefly but to whom he hadn’t spoken in 20 years. It’s the proverbial case of a man going out to mail a letter and never coming home. Clad only in his everyday garb, lacking a cell phone, backpack, or reliable sense of direction, Fry puts one poorly shod foot in front of the other and trudges through villages and hamlets, often relying on the kindness of strangers to keep his momentum going. To the object of his inspiration, the fading Queenie Hennessy, he writes pithy postcards, bravely exhorting her not to die. Solitary walks are perfect for imagining how one might set the world to rights, and Harold does just that, although not always with uplifting results, as he ruminates on missed opportunities and failed relationships. Accomplished BBC playwright Joyce’s debut novel is a gentle and genteel charmer, brimming with British quirkiness yet quietly haunting in its poignant and wise examination of love and devotion. Sure to become a book-club favorite."—Carol Haggas, Booklist

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Customer Reviews

This was a wonderful book, kept me turning the pages to the end.
P. Farrand
Through his journey, Harold learns what life is really all about, and that you can like people who are very different from oneself if you just talk to them.
R. Mellen
This is a wonderful first novel, the characters feel very real, such an unusual story and very well written.
Teresa Pietersen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

326 of 349 people found the following review helpful By David Keymer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Harold Fry, six months retired from his job as sales representative for a local brewery, gets a letter from Queenie, a woman he'd worked with twenty years before but hasn't seen since. She tells him that she's dying of cancer. The news upsets him for years earlier, Queenie had done him a great favor and he'd never had the chance to thank her. He sits down to write a letter to her but finds it hard to say anything without seeming . . . "limp,' is the word that comes to his mind. When he has finished the letter, he leaves the house to mail it but when he gets to the mailbox, he walks on to the next one, and then the next, and the next, and soon he's at the opposite edge of town. He stops at a convenience store to get something to eat. He tells the girl at the counter that he has a friend who has cancer and he's got a letter he's going to post to her. The girl talks about her aunt who had cancer. She says science doesn't know everything, you have to believe a person can get better. "You see, if you have faith, you can do anything."

In that moment, Harold, who's spent most of his life doing only the ordinary and comfortable at all, realizes what he must do. He's going to walking to his friend's sickbed. He knows it's not reasonable but he's convinced that as long as he keeps walking toward her, his friend will stay alive. He telephones the hospice, tells Queenie's nurse to take her a message: "Tell her Harold Fry is on his way. All she has to do is wait. . . . I am going to save her, you see. I will keep walking and she must keep living. Will you say that? . . . Tell her this time I won't let her down.
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123 of 132 people found the following review helpful By L. M. Keefer TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book may inspire you to go for a long walk--for 500 miles or so--like its protagonist Harold Fry did across England. You see how walking through your world five to ten miles a day for 500 miles might transform you. "Life was very different when you walked through it," realizes Harold.

Harold Fry lives invisibly and conventionally. His wife, Maureen, has become like her taste in toast: "cold and crisp". One day a letter arrives for Harold that changes their lives. The letter causes him to do something irrational and unpredictable. But as a waitress sympathetically told him in my favorite line of the book, "If we don't go mad once in a while, there's no hope." (That sounds so oddly rational that I have been contemplating what "mad" thing to do to increase the hope quotient. This may be a subversive book.)

Howard takes off on foot on a pilgrimage to see the writer of this letter. As a kind of modern CANTERBURY TALES, Howard meets many eccentric and colorful characters who cause him to see life in a new way. The pleasure of this book for me was rejoicing in Harold's transformation and the new life and self he is beginning to create. "He understood that in walking to atone for the mistakes he had made, it was also his journey to accept the strangeness of others." Meanwhile his wife, Maureen, is simultaneously changing at home: "She had given herself a challenge: every day without him, she would attempt one new thing." This book chronicles the changes these two characters undergo during Harold's pilgrimage which oddly brings them closer.

The other huge pleasure of this book is the author's original and vibrant writing. Some choice examples:

* "His shirt, tie, and trousers were folded small as an apology on a faded blue velvet chair.
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71 of 76 people found the following review helpful By K. Blaine VINE VOICE on July 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I selected "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" to read and review because I loved "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand," a book to which it was compared in the publisher's preview. And while I prefer "Major Pettigrew" for its pacing and multicultural appeal, I wholeheartedly recommend "Harold Fry." It has charms of its own.

Henry David Thoreau observed, "The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation," and I could not help but recall this quotation as I began Rachel Joyce's lovely debut novel. As the novel begins, Harold is merely existing. The reader is not given many details, but it is clear that Harold's marriage to Maureen is an empty shell, and that there are problems in his relationship with his adult son, David. Then Harold gets a farewell letter of sorts from a friend, Queenie Hennessy, and his carefully orchestrated charade of a life begins to come apart. Queenie had "done something nice" for Harold twenty years previous, and he always regretted not thanking her. Whatever this is is shrouded in mystery, and many readers will suspect a long-past affair. All these questions are a bit disconcerting, but if the reader is patient, all will be resolved.

Harold writes a "pro forma" response to Queenie's note, but as he goes out to mail it, something prevents him from putting it in the first mailbox he comes to. He passes postbox after postbox, and eventually makes an impulsive decision to walk from his hometown to Queenie's hospice, about 600 miles. Thus begins his transformation from a kind of living death to fullness of life.

Readers who are familiar with Joseph Campbell's "The Hero's Journey" will immediately recognize the motif: the hero leaves the world he knows to embark on a quest.
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