Book of the Week
The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry : a novel / Rachel Joyce.
Wikipedia defines pilgrimage as follows: A pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance.
This is a novel about two very ordinary people, Harold and Maureen Fry. Harold has retired six months before, and he and Maureen are marooned in boredom and a distance in their relationship. The only substantial discussions Maureen has are with their absent son, David. ItÃ¢ÂÂs not clear through much of the novel if she speaks to him on the telephone or with his imagined presence. One day, a letter arrives for Harold from a former co-worker, Queenie Hennessy. He has not spoken to her since she left work 20 years before, and now she writes to let him know that she has inoperable cancer. Harold writes a letter in return, but during the course of walking to the mailbox, he decides to walk to the hospital to see Queenie in person. The hospital is several hundred miles away, and so begins HaroldÃ¢ÂÂs pilgrimage.
A reader can ask themselves several questions near the beginning of the novel - during his walk, Harold sends letters and postcards to Queenie asking her to hold on, not to die, that he is on his way. Why does he feel so urgently that she not die before he gets there, if they have not seen each other for 20 years? We already know by this point that they did not have a romantic relationship. In addition, if he is very intent on arriving before her death, why does he make a slow trek by walking and not travel by motorized transport? And where is David, the son of Harold and Maureen? Does he even exist?
The answers are revealed during HaroldÃ¢ÂÂs pilgrimage. Details are revealed by Maureen also, for although she stays at home, she too goes on a pilgrimage.
This is a poignant and touching novel about dealing with loss and grief. It shows ordinary folk engaging in a search for spiritual and moral healing, and receiving forgiveness and redemption. This is not in a religious sense, as Harold explains, he is not a religious person. I was very moved by this novel and appreciated the Ã¢ÂÂreaderÃ¢ÂÂs pilgrimageÃ¢ÂÂ I experienced in reading this book.