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July 11, 2012 / Leslie

Review & Giveaway: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel JoyceThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
by Rachel Joyce

Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: July 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover | 336 pages
Rating: 4 of 5

Harold Fry has recently retired from the brewery where he has worked for decades. He resides in a modest home in the English Village of Kingsbridge with his wife Maureen where the two live almost as strangers, barely speaking to one another. Maureen blames Harold for the problems with their son, David, and says he was the reason David left.

One morning Harold receives a letter from a former co-worker, Queenie, that he hasn’t heard from in 20 years. She is dying, is residing in hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed, and is writing to say goodbye. Harold writes a reply and walks to the mailbox to send the letter. On his way he stopped at a petrol station for some refreshment and began a conversation with the girl at the checkout counter. He told her about his letter and she told him about her aunt that had cancer and that he had to have faith that Queenie would survive as her aunt had. At that point Harold was inspired to deliver the letter himself, by walking to her; for as long as he walked, Queenie would live.

In a most unlikely journey, Harold begins walking the 500 miles to deliver the letter in person. He isn’t wearing proper shoes or clothing and he doesn’t even have his mobile phone with him, but he continues anyway. As he walks he thinks back on his life, his childhood, his marriage, his son, the mistakes he’s made, the pain he has caused others, and how he failed Queenie.

We are introduced to an odd array of people that Harold meets along the way, each with their own story to tell and many eager to help him. Harold believes that “in walking to atone for the mistakes he had made, it was also his journey to accept the strangeness of others”, so he listens to them and walks with them. But is Harold walking toward Queenie or away from his own life and his unhappiness?

Meanwhile Maureen remains at home. She too reflects on the past and her mistakes and begins her own journey of acceptance of Harold, their life together and events that have transpired in their past. She begins to change, to evolve and travel her own path of personal growth.

The story is told from alternating points of view from Harold and Maureen. As they each reflect back on their lives, the years are peeled away slowly revealing their story to the reader. This is a complex but at the same time simple story about relationships, beliefs, faith, healing and the realization that we cannot change the past but we can create a better future.

Rachel Joyce has crafted a beautiful story with well developed, sympathetic characters. Although at times I did get a little frustrated with Harold and his insistence on seeing only the good in everyone, even when it compromised his own goals, I couldn’t help but like him.

About the Author

Rachel Joyce is an award-winning writer of more than twenty plays for BBC Radio 4. She started writing after a 20 year acting career performing lead roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and also winning multiple awards. Rachel Joyce lives in Gloucestershire on a farm with her family and is at work on her second novel.

Click HERE for the tour schedule.

A Giveaway

The publisher has generously offered a copy to give away to one of my readers with a US mailing address (no PO boxes). If you would like to be entered in the drawing let me know in the comments. One random winner will be selected. Enter through Monday, July 30th. Winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to respond.

[Contest has ended]

Winner: Jayme@Beachreader

Source: Review copy.
© 2012 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.



Leave a Comment
  1. Karen B / Jul 11 2012 5:37 am

    I’ve read several reviews now and am intrigued! A 500 mile journey on foot by a senior for whatever reason is bound to be interesting.


  2. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea / Jul 11 2012 5:45 am

    Sounds a bit quirky, but I tend to enjoy that. On my summer reading list. Thanks for sharing.


  3. Mary / Jul 11 2012 5:54 am

    Sounds a bit like a Julia Stuart style of book. I think I’d enjoy it (and now I keep hearing that song from the 90s in my head “and I would walk five hundred miles…”). Thanks for the giveaway chance 🙂


  4. Anne / Jul 11 2012 7:56 am

    This delightful book sounds unique and interesting. many thanks.


  5. Jayme@Beachreader / Jul 11 2012 8:25 am

    This book has been popping up around the blogosphere and looks very interesting. Thanks for the giveaway.


  6. Lisa Garrett / Jul 11 2012 8:46 am

    Please enter me!


  7. ellie / Jul 11 2012 9:10 am

    This charming story would be perfect reading for this summer.thanks for this review and giveaway.


  8. WordsAndPeace / Jul 11 2012 9:22 am

    Sounds like a good read. thanks for the giveaway!
    Emma @ Words And Peace
    ehc16e at yahoo dot com
    in case I win!


  9. carlrscott / Jul 11 2012 11:24 am

    I’d love to read Harold and Maureen’s story. Please enter my name for the chance to win. carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx


  10. Suko / Jul 11 2012 1:18 pm

    Thanks for hosting this giveaway! I’ll post it in my blog’s sidebar.



  11. BermudaOnion / Jul 11 2012 2:32 pm

    What an interesting story! I bet Harold had quite a journey – 500 miles on foot! No need to enter me.


  12. TheBookGirl / Jul 13 2012 7:02 am

    I like novels that are structured in alternating voices…I have this on my TBR pile so no need to enter me; I am glad to hear that you liked it so much, and will move it closer to the top of the pile as a result 🙂


  13. Beth DiIorio / Jul 13 2012 10:02 am

    I can’t wait to read this one! It is at the top of my “to read” list. Thank you for the chance to win a copy~
    Beth 🙂


  14. nan / Jul 14 2012 12:02 pm

    Nice reviews on this one; I’m in, thanks.


  15. Gale Nelson / Jul 15 2012 11:58 am

    Sounds like this will be a good read. Thanks for the chance to win this book. Gale


  16. Anita Yancey / Jul 15 2012 6:29 pm

    This book sounds interesting. I’d like a chance to read it. Please enter me. Thanks!


  17. Heather J. @ TLC / Jul 15 2012 8:50 pm

    Harold sounds like a fascinating character to be sure!

    Thanks for being on the tour.


  18. Sheila K. / Jul 16 2012 8:12 am

    I would love to read this book—thanks for the opportunity to win a copy!

    skkorman AT bellsouth DOT net


  19. nfmgirl / Jul 16 2012 2:09 pm

    This one quickly made it onto my Wish List after I learned about it from someone in my book club. Please count me in. Thank you!

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com


  20. Maureen / Jul 16 2012 5:23 pm

    I have seen some wonderful reviews for this book.


  21. windicindi / Jul 17 2012 2:42 pm

    I like that one of the book’s messages is that you can’t change the past,
    but can make a better future~ Many thanks, Cindi


  22. A.M.B. / Jul 19 2012 11:22 am

    The book looks very interesting. Please enter me! Thank you!


  23. AEKZ2 / Jul 20 2012 9:18 pm

    I’d love to read this book because it sounds so fascinating



  1. Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, on tour July and August, 2012 | TLC Book Tours
  2. Giveaway Winners « Under My Apple Tree

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