Thursday, 15 September 2016
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Harold is retired and when we meet him, he and his wife do not seem to speak too much to each other. His wife Maureen, seems to spend her life cleaning the house and thinking of their grown-up son. One morning their life change forever when Harold receives a postcard from a former, female colleague, Queenie Hennessy. She has cancer and she is writing to say her farewells.
The letter starts a process in Harold. He writes a polite reply and sets of to post it right away. Circumstances takes him to the nearest letter box, but he is hesitant to post it. He continues to the next one, and next one. All of a sudden without him being aware of it, he has decided to walk all the way to Queenie and with his sheer will he will make her survive.
It is a revealing journey in many ways. His lone walks not only makes him aware of is aching feet, his clothes that are not fit for longer walks, the forgotten mobile phone, but makes him look back on his life, the decisions he made, or did not do, and asking himself the question where it all went wrong.
This is really a pilgrimage in the true sense of the word. When he stops to pause, he starts talking to people he meet, telling them of his journey and they in their turn, confide their problems in him. He has never been a social, outgoing man, and he looks at himself with wonder at this new person he detects in himself. After a while TV and radio make programs about him, people follow him like he was some kind of Jesus figure. For a time he loses focus on his trip, his mission and start questioning the whole idea. Can he really save Queenie. Is it not preposterous to think so?
The whole novel is full of thoughts worthy your time. It makes you reflect on the life we live, the meaning, the artificiality of it all. Have we lost focus on what is important in life? Harold realises he has passed through life without making any impression on anyone. This is the first time that he ever made a statement, that he stood up for something or someone he believed in. At the same time he is afraid that when he reaches his goal, all that is awaiting him is a big emptiness. Maybe one always have to have a goal? Always be on the way to somewhere?
A wonderful book, a must read. It is definitely one of the best books I have read this year. Not only the story, his pilgrimage, but all the thoughts behind that enters his head and that Rachel Joyce treats with such care. The end is quite surprising but all in line with the theme of the book.