Book Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Welcome to our first Comfort Life book review.  We hope that you enjoy, and come back again for more reading recommendations.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is one of those books: That you want to whip through and savour at the same time.  That you want to scribble on, take a pen to, and whose page corners you want to bend.  One that you will remember. That makes an impact. That makes you think.

It's just one of those books.  About the things that happen to you, and the people you meet, and the way you live, and how you love.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

As the novel begins, we are introduced to Harold and Maureen Fry. They live a simple life in a small English village.  Harold is newly retired from the brewery, where he held the same job for 45 years. Life for them is quiet. Almost too quiet, except for the difficult relationship the two of them share.  It almost seems as if they are done with each other, especially when the communication between them is fraught with silence  and irritation.  One morning, Harold receives a letter in a pink envelope.  It's from an old work friend, Queenie Hennessey.  They haven't spoken in 20 years, and now she writes to tell him she is about to die.  The letter affects Harold in a curious way and seems to stir the apathy into which he has settled.

Worried that Maureen will comment or judge (Maureen appears to be a bit of a sourpuss),  he pens a reply and sets off to the mailbox.  Except, he doesn't mail the letter.  He decides to keep walking to the next postbox and then the next, until he ends up at a gas station, where a young cashier changes his life forever.  Clad in a windbreaker and 'yachting shoes', Harold continues to walk further away from home (and closer to Queenie), setting off on a journey—a pilgrimage—that neither he, nor any reader, will ever forget.

I've never before been tempted to quote from a book, but first time author Rachel Joyce has penned such beautiful words full of amazing truths, that I cannot resist whetting your appetite for her words:
'They had offered him comfort and shelter, even when he was afraid of taking them, and in accepting, he had learned something new.  It was as much of a gift to receive as it was to give, requiring both courage and humility.'

'She kept the room clean because she was waiting for David to come back, and she never knew when that would be. A part of her was always waiting.  Men had no idea what it was like to be a mother.  The ache of loving a child, even when he had moved on.'

The writing is magical, rife with insights, sadness, joy and frustration:
'It was not like Harold to make a snap decision.  He saw that.  Since his retirement, days went by and nothing changed;  only his waist thickened, and he lost more hair.'

Joyce writes sparsely, but somehow creates beautiful and irresistible still lifes that convey both pictures and emotions:
'Then once again he pictured the space between himself and Queenie: the hills, the roads, the people, the sky.  He saw them as he had done on that first afternoon, but now there was a difference;  he placed the image of himself among them.'

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a joy to read and to share.  It's partly a push to not let your life just pass you by, but it's more than that.  It's a critique of our society's ideals of fame and priorities, and a suggestion that our relationships are something to savour and to tend like a beautiful garden.

We want you to take your own journey with Harold Fry. Comment below to enter to win your own copy of this wonderful book. Tell us where (or to who) your feet would take you if you could walk anywhere.

Stay tuned to our social media channels for more news about this book giveaway draw! The deadline is October 15th at 4pm.

We were kindly provided a book for review and to giveaway by Random House Canada.


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