The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry- Book Review

Out a few weeks ago for breakfast with the family, and I figure it’d be nice to call a friend of mine to see if he wants to meet us out. I know it won’t be easy, so I put on my best, most convincing voice. After a few moans and groans, naturally, he agrees to drag his lazy ass up and indulge me. Great!

We ate, we laughed, and we paid the bill. (My treat- a tragic part of the bargain.) And then the worse happened. He wanted to go shopping. I HATE shopping, no matter how brief, and what’s more I’m stuffed to the brim from breakfast. I just wanna get home. To make matters worse, he wants to do charity-shop shopping which, while marginally more enjoyable, takes a hell of a lot more humming-and-harring and mulling over decisions. I know this, and he knows that I know this, but he has me. I did, after all, drag him out for breakfast.

So we head out into town with the quest ahead of us. He’s a man on a mission, a spring in his step and a newfound energy to boot, while I drag my heels reluctantly behind him. You’ve all heard of the gay-bestfriend? Well today I was the straight best friend. Straightup role-reversal. And all of a sudden I’m a style advisor. Yeah I know, man of many talents. *shrugs*

Seconds turn into minutes, minutes turn into hours, or at least, that’s how it feels to me. From one shop to the next, appraising the finest, if somewhat dustiest, of the suit jackets on offer. This one’s too cream, but oh the fabric of this one is sublime. But what about the cut? And ew that stitching’s seen better days. After around six and a half hours (twenty minutes) he comes to a decision, and we head over to the til with his new-old jacket while the bored cashier eyes us suspiciously. Seriously, it’s like she’s expecting us to pull guns out from under our coats and shoot up the place for whatever pound coins she’s taken that morning. But who can blame her? Who under fifty shops in charity shops anyway?

And that’s when I see it. There on the small secondhand book section right by the til. A shining gem in the dimly lit emporium of forgotten things. I swear I could see dust particles dancing around in the rays of light that emitted from this thing. A rare treasure indeed, lying unsuspectingly under my nose the whole time. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

I pick up the book curiously between my thumb and forefinger as if it were a piece of forensic evidence for bagging, while Jamie exchanged back and forth chitter-chatter with Professor McGonagall ringing up his items on her ancient til. Pretty sure she used a calculator…

Have you ever had an urge to just walk and keep walking until something clicks and you discover everything there is to know about yourself, figure out the meaning to it all, and unwrap the secrets of the universe all at once? To just be utterly and completely free from all constraints, all trappings of the modern world, and just exist in the face of whatever existing throws at you? Imagine moving from place to place on foot, sleeping and living by the land, surviving by the kindness of people and the work you’d do for them, exchanging stories and pleasantries and friendships along the way. It’s an unlikely fantasy I’ve romanticised for years, so when I see a title like this what am I gonna do but pick it up?

Needless to say I charm the cost of the book out of my friend (a whole, single, pound coin), and leave the shop with the yellowed book in tow and a smile on my face.

The Verdict

The Unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce follows the story of, you guessed it, Harold Fry. After receiving a letter from an old work friend explaining that she has cancer, he sets out to post one back. The sun’s shining, his wife is busying herself at home like she does, so he decides to walk to the next post box. And then the next. And the next. Before long he finds himself in a diner, eating a burger and talking to a stranger. The stranger inspires him, and as an act of faith he makes the decision to walk to the other side of the country to save Queenie Hennessy’s life.

I loved this book from cover to cover, and genuinely have nothing bad to say about it. The way Joyce uses scene breaks and character switches to manage pacing is expertly done, and the underlying stories of Harold Fry, his wife Maureen, and their son David, is revealed through a sequence of expertly written memories and recollections throughout Harold’s journey. Everything he’s buried over the years, all the hurt, the disappointment, and the pain, comes bubbling up in a smooth and flowing masterpiece, until it comes together in an unavoidably tragic confrontation of the past.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is both a heart-warming and heart-breaking read, which carried me to the end without a second’s hesitation. I can confidently say that this book will stay with me for the rest of my life, and has earned its place in my favourites. If you’re in the market for a funny, tragic, charming, and exciting read, I can highly recommend this book. I promise you’ll thank me for it.

You want a smile on your face like this? Then UK buyers can pick up their copies from amazon HERE, and US buyers HERE. Not only will you be treated to an unbelievably charming read delivered straight to your door, you’ll keep my lights on and maybe even put some food in my belly!

The Fun Part!

My copy of the book will be sent out to Mary Bradford, an author and friend I feel lucky to have had the pleasure of getting to know well. You can check out her website and ever-growing collection of titles here. If you’d like to be in with a chance to win a copy of each of the books I read, subscribe to my newsletter at the following link, and enjoy exclusive flash fictions and discounts on upcoming releases as an added bonus!

Sign Up Here!

Have you read this book? Let me know what you thought down below. If not, just tell me something. I read and write like all the time… I’m lonely. Until next time!

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