When Harold Fry leaves home one morning to post a letter, with his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other. He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. all he knows is that he must keep walking. To save someone else’s life.”
Harold Fry is an unassuming man is his seventies who lives a quiet life with his wife Maureen in their home in the South Hams of Devon. But when a letter arrives for Harold one morning from an old acquaintance, everything changes. Harold sets out to the local postbox to post his reply, but carries on walking to the next one and the next one and the one after that. He embarks on a pilgrimage to save Queenie Hennessy, who he feels he has a lot to thank for, but his pilgrimage becomes more of an enlightenment to him than it ever can to Queenie.
Rachel Joyce tackles dementia, depression and addiction within this heartwarming tale of perseverance against all odds. More and more events from Harold’s past begin to surface and his relationship with his wife and son are completely stripped bare. Why does Maureen now sleep in the spare room? Why do his wife and son seem to gang up on him? What has he done or indeed not done that has resulted in his life becoming so devoid of love and affection? These are all questions which are gradually answered throughout the book and we realise that Harold needs to walk not just for Queenie but to also escape some of his demons and to rediscover who he is. It is essentially a purging of his past which will let him come to terms with what has happened and give him the chance to rebuild past relationships.
Harold’s journey takes him 600 miles from Kingsbridge in Devon up to Berwick on Tweed where Queenie is staying in a hospice. After talking to a girl in a petrol station, he begins to believe that if he can just keep walking, without any help from other transport, he will be able save Queenie from her cancer. Buying souvenirs and posting postcards and letters on his way he shares the Great British countryside with the reader whilst cementing our faith that if he just keeps walking then surely the outcome must be positive – right? Well I’m not going to spoil the ending for you, but this truly is one of those life changing books that will have you laughing and crying in equal measure. Beautifully written, offering us a modern twist on John Bunyan’s ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress‘. It deserves a spot on anyone’s book shelf and I know I for one will be returning time and time again to this amazing book.
Next months book: ‘The Fault in Our Stars‘