Rachel Joyce: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (April 2022)

This story is deceptively simple. A retired man in Kingsbridge receives a letter from a colleague he has not been in contact with for 20 years, Queenie Hennesey, telling him that she is in a hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed. He writes a brief letter back, goes to post it but instead just keeps walking 627 miles in 87 days first having phoned the hospice to tell her to wait for him.

Harold is totally unprepared for this long journey, no map, no compass or phone, wearing yachting shoes. On his way he encounters many different people, some who share personal details of their lives, some who kindly assist him, and a group of people who, having heard of his pilgrimage, latch onto him.

He stays in touch with Maureen, his wife, and we know that there has been a rift between them concerning their son.

Harold completed his walk and we felt that we had taken every step of the way with him. A seemingly ordinary man, we learn of his sad life and the brief happiness he found at the start of his relationship with Maureen.

This book was very well received by the group, and we reflected on grief and thought about times in our lives when we felt like just walking away.

Some of us had read the companion book The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey and recommended it.

We awarded it an almost unanimous 5 out of 5.

Liane Goulding