Book Review – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

I am taking part in the Write Tribe Reading Challenge and I have opted to read 24 books this year (though I am hoping to read more). There are 24 prompts given, and this book adheres to three of them:

8. A book with a name in the title

9. A book with orange cover (I finally got it 🙂 )

10. A book set in a country that you visited/want to visit

Image credit: Amazon

I must confess that I finished reading this book in 4 months, though I read 95% of the book only in the last 4 days.

It’s my good fortune that of late, I have been coming across beautiful books. The credit goes to my blogger friends who read and recommend these books.

So, without further ado, let me write about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Plot

One morning, Harold Fry, a former brewery manager recently retired, finds a letter from an acquaintance, Queenie Hennessy, he hadn’t heard for over 20 years. The letter said Queenie was dying of a terminal cancer in a hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Harold Fry was shaken. He wrote her a reply and started out to post the letter. However, when the post box cropped up, he didn’t feel like posting the letter so soon, so he decided to walk till the next box. But he still didn’t post and walked till the next one. He even walked past the post office and didn’t post the letter. A chance meeting with a girl in a garage shop who said how keeping faith and being positive helped her aunt (who had cancer), showed him the light. He decided to walk the length of the United Kingdom (from Kingsbridge at the south of England to Berwick-upon-Tweed, the most northern town in England) to meet Queenie, the woman who had once saved Harold’s life and had got nothing in return.

It didn’t matter to him that he was wearing yachting shoes and not walking shoes, he was not carrying any change of clothes and that he was not even carrying his mobile phone. He didn’t think of much except putting one foot before the other. Even when his feet developed blisters and were bleeding, he continued walking. Initially, Harold was too shy to ask for help. However, he met some very kind people on his journey and started believing in the genuineness of humanity.

Soon, he realized that it was not right on his part to squander his retirement fund on guest houses and daily meals. He decided to reach Berwick upon the largesse of the nature and people. He drank spring water, fruits from the fields and wild mushrooms foraged from the forest. He humbly accepted whatever people offered him and made sure he never took more than required.

Harold’s journey became a sensation in England and people in every city and town that he visited came forward to help Harold. In his journey, joined a motley of characters; all had a different purpose, but they made Harold’s journey their own.

At the end of 87 days after walking 627 miles, Harold reached Berwick to meet Queenie.

Review

If you start reading the book, you will find it very ordinary. A retired old man starting a journey to meet a long-lost friend – what’s so extraordinary about it?

Well, the extraordinary is not in the man – but in the faith of the man that prompts him to make a tediously long journey. The extraordinary is in the humanity that picks up the old man whenever he falters. The extraordinary is in the learning that the man receives during his journey.

The title of the book is apt – it may be journey for some, but for Harold Fry it was a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage he needed to make to atone for his past sins, to be free of the guilt and burden of them and make peace with his present.

I liked Harold Fry for who he is – an honest man who doesn’t like to break his promise. But I also like the other characters in the story who are as lovable as Harold – Rex, who has recently lost his wife and is very helpful to Maureen deal with the absence of Harold and Kate – the only sane person who joins, albeit briefly, Harold in his journey.

I liked the book because of its simple writing, unassuming humor and not-over-the-top emotional drama.

About Anshu Bhojnagarwala

Fiction Addict. Agatha Christie Fan.
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