To start off, I normally don’t read books that my wife recommends. I’m not sure why but I like to find my own reads. And I have a stack of books on my shelf that were higher on the list. But I kept hearing about this book and found it reviewed in Oprah magazine. Yes, I don’t like to admit but I have flipped through the pages of this magazine from time to time. What can I say, she recommends good books. Finally, I put Harold Fry on the top of the stack and decided to give it a go.
The premise of the book is that Harold wakes up one day and receives a letter from a former coworker, Queenie Hennessy. She is dying of cancer in a town over 500 miles north of Harold’s home. The recently retired Harold writes out a note on a postcard and walks to the end of the lane to mail it. But then, he keeps on going, walking in his old pair of loafers, determined to save his friend that had left his home town years ago.
The book is believable. I could see someone in my own town, rolling out of bed, and going on their own personal quest. This story is more about Harold than it ever was about Queenie. It’s never about the destination. The journey is what counts. Harold’s journey is hard. He has little money or equipment (no compass or change of clothes), is in no shape for the trip, but just keeps on going. That’s what most do in life. We put our heads down and keep at it.
Sleeping on roadsides and befriended by strangers, Harold discovers what he has been missing in life. The book reflects on the little things. The sunsets, the stars in the sky, and just eating at a cafe amount to big moments in the story. The writer does rely on misdirection in the book. Unlike a movie, it’s difficult for a book to pull a twist off on its reader. Few do it well and here it amounts to a heart wrenching moment. In the end, you realize how an old man lost his way in life but somehow found his way back again. I have a list of my ten favorite books that I update from time to time. I’m sure I’ve read better books than the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. But I haven’t read one like this in a long time. Read this book. It will stay with you for a long time.