The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry

I have just finished this book – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

This book unfolds and you get to know Harold, Maureen and their son David.

Soon you realise they are in a marriage that has long since stopped functioning, and both Harold and Maureen have become empty shells of who they used to be – their lives are filled with silences and moving around inside an empty house.

Untold pain, regret held close and things gone unsaid.

No one saying anything they mean.  Or meaning to say anything they say.

There is Queenie Hennessy who you are not quite sure as to where she fits in, and why Harold would decide to work 600 miles to see her – well to save her from cancer actually – why he would do something so out of character and for her, is not quite clear.

His journey starts when he receives a letter from Queenie who he has not spoken to in 20 years.  Her letters tells her she has cancer and there is nothing more they can do, and thanks him for the friendship he had shown her all those years ago.

He writes a reply, sets out on foot to post the letter, and then just keeps on walking.

And carries on walking, and it becomes his purpose to get to Queenie.  To save her – hundreds of miles away from where he lives in Devon, all the way up in a Hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed.

On foot, in just his yachting shoes – no cell phone, no wallet, no map, no idea.

He doesn’t tell his wife, he just starts walking.

A bit like where the husband goes out to the corner shop for cigarettes and never comes back.

A beautifully told story.

It is so starkly honest and strips away all of life’s complications to come back to people and how they connect with each other – and how Harold finds himself, and his life by meeting other people and realising that everyone is battling their own demons.

Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry

“From the moment I met Harold Fry, I didn’t want to leave him. Impossible to put down” (Erica Wagner The Times)

“Deploying meticulously precise and deceptively light-as-air prose, Joyce takes Harold across the bitter wastelands of regret to the sunlit uplands of emotional redemption with a ­clarity that is at times almost unbearably moving” (Karen Robinson The Sunday Times)

“Distinguished by remarkable confidence… Polished to perfection… Joyce’s experience as a playwright shows in her ear for dialogue and eye for character diatom – even the walk-on parts stay with you as real people. She handles her material with deceptive lightness but Harold’s journey towards a better version of himself is totemic. To read about him is to be moved to follow him” (Daily Telegraph 2012-03-10)

“This cleverly done, admirably clear-sighted novel skirts the sloughs of saccharine and whimsy, coming to an almost unbearably moving conclusion. An instant book-group classic” (Daily Mail 2012-03-23)

“A terrific book, comic and sad and very honest. Harold is a wonderfully-drawn character… his story is at the same time emotionally gruelling and yet ultimately uplifting.” (Joanne Harris)

Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens …

Another book that has been lying in my book shelf for ages, collecting dust and I have been meaning to read.

Book Title:  Rush Home Road

Author:  Lori Lansens

What’s the book about?  Addy Shadd is a seventy year old woman who lives in a trailer park (out of choice) and circumstances conspire that she is put in the position to take care of Sharla Cody who is a five-year old little girl living in a nearby trailer, with a somewhat unavailable mother.

The story is about how Addy and Sharla change each other’s lives, and as the book progresses, the story of Addy’s life unfolds.  There is nothing jarring or frantic in this book – though the characters and experiences are told with empathy and a real sense of “it was like I was there” quality – the story flows easily and you get carried along on its current.

The jacket describes the book as “Rush Home Road, the story of a seventy-year old woman’s journey through the unbearable sorrows of her past, in order to save an abandoned little girl, is a first novel of exquisite power, honesty, and conviction.  Its portrait of how much has changed, and how little, over nearly a century, in the realms of race, love, hate and loss, is nearly without flaws.”

Who told you about the book?  No one, it is one of those where the cover had some sort of appeal, but I was not sure what or why.

What resonated with you about the book?  The book is not a story with a beginning, middle and an end.  You feel you have stumbled into the lives of Addy and Sharla, and you get to walk a bit with them on this road they are on.

Time needed to read? 387 pages, 1 1/2 line spacing, not a huge commitment, probably took 3 – 4 days of reading a bit before bed each night.

Where did you purchase the book?  Books Galore, which is a discounted book store at Plattekloof Shopping Centre.

Would you save this book, pass it along to a charity store, or pass it along to a fellow avid reader?  My initial feeling was to toss it, but there is something haunting about this book.  I have it lying next to me right now, and I keep glancing at it, and the story does sit with you for a long time.  I would probably pass it along to someone – probably my mom.

Rating out of a possible 5:  3 1/2 – not a must read, but a “quite a good read.”