Everything Librarian: September 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

"The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" by Rachel Joyce is a 2012 work of fiction. Harold Fry is an older gentleman who receives a letter from an old friend who is dying. On a walk to the mail box to deliver a reply to Queenie, Harold decides to walk to the nursing home where his old friend is living out her final days. The rub is that Harold will have walk clear from southern England to Scotland, a trip of over 700 miles to visit his old friend. Harold makes it clear that his walking is meant to encourage Queenie to survive.

Harold's wife Maureen is not sure what to make of her perceived abandonment, even though Harold calls and sends postcards fairly regularly. Along Harold's journey he relies on others for food, makes some new friends, and creates a bit of a media sensation for himself. Harold's journey is, of course, more than just a walk. Fry is seeking answers to unresolved issues in his life of his former friend Queenie, his son David, and the issues of his own upbringing. What does it all mean? Where will Harold end up? What is the significance of Harold's relationship with Queenie? Faithful reader, you will have to find out for yourself.

Ultimately, every good work of fiction is a slowly unfolding mystery, and "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" is no exception. The beauty of this book lies in the effortless writing of Rachel Joyce. I dove into this book somewhat skeptical of the glowing praise on the cover by the likes of Nancy Horan and O: The Oprah Magazine. But I loved reading this book. I loved Harold Fry. I loved his wife, Maureen. The simple and unencumbered language of Rachel Fry is beautiful and so appropriate for the story and character of Harold Fry. I also enjoyed Joyce's descriptions of people and the beautiful English countryside that Harold walks through.

I found it interesting and pertinent that Rachel Joyce is a seasoned playwright for BBC radio. Her use of imagery is masterful and minimal, and she has the ability to propel a story forward with grace, and not too much schmaltz.

If you are looking for a good beach read, a good book club book, a soothing modern cautionary tale, a modern (yet timeless) work of fiction, look no further than "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry".

You can check out "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" by Rachel Joyce at the Pioneer Memorial Public Library in Harman, West Virginia.