Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Rachel Joyce)

Wow, I’m not quite sure how I feel about Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.  On the one hand, the premise of the book made no sense to me, and on the other hand, I found myself cheering Harold on all the way.

Harold and Maureen are an older married couple who barely know each other anymore.  They’re existing together but live very plainly and solemnly.  One day, Harold receives a letter from someone he used to work with, Queenie Hennessy.  The news isn’t good -- she’s in hospice and just wanted to say goodbye. Harold intends to write her a reply and starts to walk to the mailbox but instead, takes off on a 600-mile walk to see her in person.  Along the way, he meets a whole parade of characters, including a group of pilgrims (which makes the book very reminiscent of Forrest Gump).

Here was my big problem with this plotline -- first, if someone was dying in hospice, you would need to see them urgently, so why would you walk 600 miles instead of getting into a car? I get that this was supposed to be a pilgrimage, but that bordered on the ridiculous. Also, Joyce does reveal why Harold feels the need to urgently walk to Queenie, but she doesn’t do so until the end.  I kept thinking how horrible I’d feel if my husband took off on a long journey without telling me to see another woman.  But again, Joyce does give a good reason.

There’s lots of schmaltz in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, but there’s also lots of heart.  I’m still going to give it just an average rating though -- it didn’t blow me away.