Book review – Step out with Harold

2012-11-24 09:39

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (Doubleday), 296 pages, R117

Much like the protagonist, at first the reader continues to read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry merely as an alternative to stopping.

Stealthily, Rachel Joyce’s story, though, draws the reader in, and a few chapters along, it’s impossible to put down this story of one unremarkable man’s remarkable journey to save a friend.

Harold gets a letter from a former colleague – she says she’s dying. He writes her a letter and walks to the post box to post it.

Then he walks on to the next post office. Before long he’s left town and is trudging cross-country to the other side of England to hand-deliver the letter to Queenie.

He has nothing but a pair of unsuitable walking shoes and he relies on the kindness of strangers to continue his travels.

While Harold walks, his wife, Maureen, sits at home wondering first where Harold is and then wondering why he’s walking away from her.

Without joining Harold on his journey as told by Joyce, it’s impossible to explain why it is such a compelling story.

Perhaps its greatest attraction is that the hero is the unlikeliest you’ll ever meet, or perhaps it’s his stoicism or his courage or his fear. Perhaps what grips the reader is Harold’s overwhelming need to believe that what he is doing can make a difference to how Queenie’s life works out.

Touching in strange ways, Harold’s story is worth packing for the holidays.

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