- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Random House (July 24, 2012)
- ISBN-10: 0812993292
- Source: Publisher
Harold Fry is recently retired, living with his wife Maureen in a small English village. Their marriage, on the surface, is no longer one made of love but more of convenience and habit. They no longer share a bedroom and Harold appears to annoy Maureen incessantly. One morning, among the routine mail, Harold receives a letter from a woman he hasn’t spoken with in two decades: Queenie Hennessy. He once worked alongside Queenie but he hadn’t really thought of her since, until receiving this letter. She’s in a hospice, suffering from incurable cancer.
Harold writes Queenie a short, curt response and is on his way to mail the letter when he meets a young girl who unwittingly gives him a wake-up call, convincing him that he can do something to save Queenie. He begins walking, at first from one post box to the next, but soon his journey becomes more of a mission. Harold is certain that if he walks to Queenie, who is clear across England (six hundred miles away!), he’ll be able to save her. He doesn’t alert Maureen until that evening during a brief phone call. Maureen, doubting Harold’s ability to walk any sort of distance, fails to believe her husband can make the trip. She’s certain he will call, asking to be picked up. How could he make a walk of this distance, wearing “regular” clothes and boat shoes?
Harold keeps walking, disproving all of Maureen’s assumptions. He calls her each evening, apprising her of his progress. It isn’t long before Maureen realizes Harold is set on making this trek and she begins to question if he will return. She begins to miss him, soon moving her possessions back into the room they once shared, sleeping in their marital bed.
Meanwhile, along his journey Harold begins to meet people on his journey with stories that encourage him to continue on his mission. Each of these individuals unlock a passion or a memory that Harold has forgotten all this time. As he walks, Harold evaluates his life and the decisions he’s made. He reflects on the mother who abandoned him, his harsh father. He thinks of the day he met Maureen, lost chances with his son David, who he hasn’t seen in some time. He soon mails his credit cards back to his wife, learning to live on the meager side, carrying as little as possible. He reflects on nature as he walks and it isn’t long before he is able to identify the flowers and foliage that he passes on his journey.
As he walks, he sends postcards to Queenie, begging her to hold on until he arrives. Harold hints at an act of goodwill that Queenie performed, the reason he must continue his journey. Weeks pass and he finally phones the hospice where she is residing and learns Queenie has taken a remarkable turn, once weak in bed, now sharing the postcards he sends her with hospice care workers.
It isn’t long before the media and, in turn, the public learn of Harold’s journey. His passion and dedication rub off on and influence others. Some choose to join him in his journey, attracted by this sense of accomplishment.
Meanwhile, Maureen learns a great deal herself as Harold is on his journey. Spending time with a neighbor who recently lost his wife, Maureen begins to look at the positive aspects and memories of their marriage rather than only focusing on the negatives and faults.
Ultimately, it’s not Harold’s destination but the journey itself that is the most rewarding about this novel. Harold is an incredibly flawed yet endearing character. Joining him on his journey was an incredibly insightful and positive experience. It isn’t until the ending, when Harold is so close to his destination, that Harold confesses the source of his guilt, his sadness, his need for redemption.
The pacing of this novel is slow, much like that of Harold’s journey. That said, I wouldn’t change it a bit. The reader feels Harold’s pain, his anguish. We slowly trek alongside him in his journey, both physical and emotional. The author’s writing is so beautiful, so addictive, so powerful.
“In walking, he freed the past that he had spent twenty years seeking to avoid, and now it chattered and played through his head with a wild energy that was it’s own. He no longer saw distances in terms of miles. He measured it with his remembering.”
Well worth the journey, this is a book that will linger within me. Highly recommended.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this book. Be sure to check out the official tour page and check out all the stops in the tour!
Tags: Literary Fiction, Random House, Review