A physical journey as well as a journey of the mind and soul

One morning Harold Fry, retiree, set out to post a letter to his former work colleague, Queenie, who had cancer. When he got to the letter box, he decided to deliver it by hand.

And so begins Harold’s remarkable journey. Harold lives in the south of England, Queenie is in a nursing home in Scotland. Unlikely Pilgrimage

I must admit to loving stories which are both are physical journey and a journey of the mind and soul. Harold is ill equipped physically and mentally. He is unfit, wearing only a light jacket, everyday clothes and yachting shoes. He is desperately unhappy and estranged from his wife, with whom he still lives and he has lost contact with his son.

Harold has his wallet with cards, fortunately, but he is not a wealthy man. On the first night he rings the nursing home so Queenie will know he is coming, and he phones his wife so she knows he is safe.

As with all good journey stories Harold meets with those who provide advice and support, and with those who try to take advantage of him. There are some sensitive and moving encounters and some which are very funny and absurd.

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As he walks he thinks. And we gradually come to know the truth of Harold’s life, and not its veneer. And while the truth of his life is deeply sad, there is a triumph at the end.

Harold regularly sends his wife postcards and telephones her. Gradually the reasons for their estrangement are revealed and tentative reconciliation reached.

This is a book about truth, about shame, about pretence. It is about reconciliation.

I loved reading this book, and took it slowly so I could think over the lessons Harold was learning and the lessons Harold was teaching.

Rachel Joyce is to be congratulated on a beautifully written book.

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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Available for $16.75 via Booktopia