Two weeks ago at my Red Read Robin book club, we discussed the book The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. Unlike the last book I wrote about Grandma Gatewood’s Walk, this was a book of fiction about a man who took off on a walk.
Harold Fry is recently retired and lives in a small English village with his wife Maureen who seems to be irritated with him much of the time. He spends a lot of time sitting in his recliner or mowing the lawn, while Maureen spends every day dusting, sweeping and cleaning the house whether it needs it or not and talking on the phone to their son, David. Then one day a letter arrives from a woman he used to work with and hasn’t seen or heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in a hospice and is writing a good-bye to him because she’s dying of cancer.
He writes a reply, but before he can mail it to her in the mailbox down the road a chance encounter with a girl at a gas station makes him decide to deliver his message to Queenie in person. In his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold Fry starts out on an urgent quest determined to walk six hundred miles to the hospice. He believes as long as he walks, Queenie will live. He’s left his phone and his wallet behind. He meets many people along the way, many that help him and many who think he’s crazy.
Maureen has no idea what happened to him. She starts talking to the widower next door who lost his wife recently. Eventually Harold calls her collect and tells her what he’s doing. She thinks he’s crazy but starts to realize she really misses him. As he goes along, he calls his wife to talk briefly with her, but both of them can’t quite tell the other they miss them.
Like Grandma Gates, people ask him why he’s walking, and eventually reporters write about him and people start joining him to walk on the pilgrimage to save Queenie’s life.
The book has wonderful reviews from The Washington Post, The New York Times, and People, and everyone in our book club who read it loved it and we had so much to say about it. I loved it so much that after I returned it to the library I bought a used copy at The Village Book Store plus her 2nd book called The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy which she wrote after this book. I haven’t read it yet, but look forward to it. Her first book had me smiling at times, and worrying about him at other times, and sometimes feeling teary eyed, too. I won’t tell you how it ends because I’m hoping you’ll read and enjoy the book, too.
What book have you read that had you smiling at times and a little teary eyed at other times, too.