The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce had been on my shelf for a long time. I have to admit, as a fan of Jonas Jonasson and his books such as The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed out a Window and Disappeared, I started The Unlikely Pilgrimage and lumped it in the same category. It starts on a similar premise, a geriatric man escaping his normal life, Harold through going to post a letter to his dying former colleague Queenie Hennessy. By chapter two I’d dismissed it as a rather slower version of Hundred Year Old Man. But how wrong I was. The two are quite different.
It was the snippets of wisdom that dragged me in.
“You’d think walking should be the simplest thing,” she said at last. “Just a question of putting one foot in front of the other. But it never ceases to amaze me how difficult the things that are supposed to be instinctive really are.”
And before I knew it I was hooked. Harold Fry went from being a bored retiree who couldn’t stop at a postbox and so kept walking with his letter, to being a complex character delving into mysteries of his past and revealing truths of relationships and the human condition. All of this is done in a humble manner, simply by walking and talking to the people that he meets.
“People were buying milk, or filling their cars with petrol, or even posting letters. And what no one else knew was the appalling weight of the thing they were carrying inside. The superhuman effort it took sometimes to be normal, and a part of things that appeared both easy and everyday. The loneliness of that.”
Its one of those books that makes you reflect back to your own life and relationships, perhaps learning from Harold and his wife’s. A book that encourages you to seek joy in the everyday, deal with your own demons, and reconsider the mundane routines that we can find ourselves in.
A great read, and I’ll be on to the sequel The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy shortly.