Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - A Review

"The journey of a thousand miles 
begins with one step." - Lao Tzu

Harold is a retired English gentleman, who in in own words, has never done anything.  Since his retirement as a sales representative for a local brewery, he has basically sat in his house and mowed the lawn.  Harold’s life is stale and his 45+ year marriage to his wife Maureen has been stagnant for at least 20 years. When he is first introduced in the beginning of the book, Harold is depicted as an empty, hollow shell of a man who is not living.  Harold’s life changes dramatically one day when he receives a letter from an old friend and colleague whom he has not seen or heard from in 20 years.  The friend has written to say goodbye.  What initially starts out as a brief walk to the mailbox in order to mail a reply turns into a 600 mile walking pilgrimage from the south-western coast of England to Berwick-upon-Tweed in the north.

Initially, Harold is euphoric as he journeys northward.  But, as the days and miles pass, Harold must confront the physical ailments of a man who has never “walked further than the end of his driveway” as well as the unearthing of numerous sorrows and regrets of yesteryear.  His path crosses with an eclectic mix of characters throughout his journey, many of whom show him kindness.  All the characters, we learn, have their own stories, burdens, and life obstacles to face.  Through these interactions, both brief and extended, Harold sees the best and the worst of the human experience and he realizes that we all are hanging on by so little.  In the end, the pilgrimage transforms Harold. Whether it transforms him for the better, we do not know.  I, personally, like to think that it does.

My favorite quote from the book is this:  “The people he met, the places he passed, were all steps in his journey, and he kept a place inside his heart for each of them.”

I thoroughly enjoyed The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.   I would recommend it to those who enjoy poignant tales of underdogs.  I found it quaint and it provided me with both laughter and tears.

My Goodreads rating:  4/5 stars

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