Book: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Author: Rachel Joyce
Recommend: This is a great vicarious read for those who love to walk, talk out loud to themselves and long for the great outdoors. I takes a common man and shows us his personal struggles in an uncommonly insightful way. Also, for anyone who cannot tolerate exposure to the sun, this book offers a virtual adventure along side the determined steps of a humble man’s solitary pilgrimage.
Setting out to run a simple errand, Harold Fry takes himself and the reader on a journey he did not chart nor plan for. Ill shod and unprepared for his spontaneous trip, Harold suddenly summons the inner courage to step outside the known and venture out on a desperate quest he hopes will save a dying friend. His persistence and plodding progress toward his goal become at times the end in its self, as his self-doubt and uncertainty battle against his desire to finish what he started, and somehow find a way to set his personal world right again.
Haunted by the demons of his imperfect past, Harold finds faith and trust in the people he meets to overcome his many fears. With each step, Harold finds a little more of himself, and learns to accept truths he has long buried and avoided. He slowly rebuilds a dawning comprehension of primal values he once abandoned in response to the painful events his life. I found this book especially enjoyable as I walked with Harold through its pages. I trekked for hours down roads I could never personally walk, borrowing his perspective and the author’s imagination, I shared his steps and the reawakening of his heart and soul.
As a lupus patient, my auto-immunity makes me extremely photosensitive. Lamenting my own ability to stand or walk in beloved sun light more than ten or fifteen minutes without aggravating my lupus, the idea of taking a much longed-for hike is especially welcome!
I strolled for miles next to Harold down winding paths through the rolling English countryside, and listened with him as he relished the voice each new bird’s song or echoing barking dog heard in the distance. I shivered with him as the dank night air chilled his bony frame and dampness made him cower in the dark. I encouraged him as he slogged through the rain, and quietly shouted hurray for him a hundred times over, as he grasped for each new ounce of strength to help him press on just a little bit farther toward his ambitious goal.
I felt as if my presence at his side somehow helped him. I was the companion who understood his purpose when other companions failed to grasp his intent. He trusted me with his true thoughts.
Joyce spins her tale with skill, as she helps us understand the inner workings of Harold Fry through his winsome honesty, and artfully and patiently unveils the identity and humanness of the secondary cast of characters and walking companions. His wife and son, Maureen and David, their neighbor Rex, a host of others, and lastly Harold’s friend that we finally meet at journey’s end, all become real and engaging. Joyce paints a colorful host of interesting souls who are woven into the tapestry of Mr. Fry’s daunting hiking adventure. Joyce stands a great chance of gaining a stance beside two of my favorite authors, John Hershey and E.B. White.
Setting out to the mail box to post a letter will never be quite the same again!