With Future Uncertain, Man Journeys to Past

With lyrical writing, author Rachel Joyce tells the story of a man whose marriage and career have stalled starting out on a search for...something. A book review of 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.'


When Harold Fry opens a letter one day, he is startled to discover that the writer is a woman named Queenie Hennessy, who was a former work colleague of his some 20 odd years earlier.  Queenie writes that she is dying of cancer and is writing to say goodbye.  Queenie remembers that Harold was kind to her when she went through a difficult time at work.   Though it has been many years since Harold has had any contact with Queenie, he remembers her with great fondness.

Harold has reached a crossroads in his life.  He and his wife of 47 years barely speak to each other.  He hasn’t seen his son, David, in many years.  And he has recently retired from his job as a salesman for the brewery where he was employed.

Harold writes a quick note to Queenie expressing his sympathy for her illness and best wishes for recovery.  However, as he is about to post the letter he decides that he should visit Queenie.  Queenie lives at the opposite end of England from where Harold lives.  Harold had left home without a cell phone, money or a credit card, a book to read or decent footwear and raingear.  But he decides to begin his journey anyway.

Undertaking this journey is totally out of character for Harold.  He is older, not athletic and not even much of a walker.  But the more people try to dissuade him from his endeavor, the more determined he is to complete his trip.

Harold encounters a great number of people on his walk and is eventually joined by many other people who have heard of his journey.  He comes to realize that everyone has a story to share and other people have certainly had their own disappointments and regrets.

This is a touching story of a man who is desperate to redeem himself in his own eyes and in the eyes of his wife and his friend.  The writing is lovely and lyrical and the story is memorable.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is available for checkout at the Niles Public library District.


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