Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The average person walks less than five miles a day going about his or her normal routines. Yachting shoes, or boat shoes (think Sperry Topsiders), were originally invented to provide traction on boat decks. Silent marriages typically do not last. Queenie is an old fashioned name in England.

How do these things connect? Ask Harold Fry.

Harold Fry is a retired man in a marriage that has all but dissolved. He spends his days puttering around his house, but never accomplishing anything worthwhile. That is, until he is contacted by Queenie Hennessey, a friend from the past. Harold discovers that Queenie has cancer and a hopeless prognosis. Harold cannot muster the proper sentiment for the letter he must write to Queenie, so he jots down a superficial note and leaves his house to take the letter to the corner mailbox. Harold’s inability to articulate in writing what he feels he must finally tell Queenie prompts a journey that serves many purposes: healing, appreciation, remembrance, grief, human connection.

I love a good story, but a story that actually makes you feel something is even better.  You might think that a book about a man in his sixties walking over 500 miles at a clip of roughly 8 miles per day is predictable, but you’d be wrong. While the reader is left to wonder if Queenie was a catalyst in the demise of this marriage, we are given a chance to see both Harold’s and his wife’s perspective of the path they took to reach the walk that would change everything.

In addition to the story of Harold Fry, the novel provides an opportunity to view our society and the importance we place on items, events, people, and life.
Harold Fry, the pilgrim in boat shoes.

As a side note, the novel was also nominated for the Man Booker Prize 2012. This is also a debut novel from writer Rachel Joyce.

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