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Take a walk with Harold

There's been lots of buzz about Rachel Joyce's debut novel - The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

Harold lives in the southern part of England. He is a quiet man, who has tried to keep a low profile in life, preferring not to draw attention to himself. He has recently retired and now stays at home with his wife Maureen, filling the days with small, mundane tasks. But, the relationship between himself and Maureen is growing increasingly fractious. One day the post arrives - with a letter from someone named Queenie Hennessey. Queenie and Harold worked together many years ago, but haven't kept in touch. Queenie is dying and has written a good bye letter to Harold. Harold feels he should send a reply, so he does and dutifully sets off to mail it straight away. Except.....when he reaches the post box, he decides to post it at the next box. And then he has an epiphany - why not deliver the letter in person? And if he can walk the 600 miles to Queenie - she won't die. And that moment marks the beginning of Harold's pilgrimage.

"Tell her Harold Fry is on his way. All she has to do is wait. Because I am going to save her, you see. I will keep walking and she must keep living."

As Harold walks, he begins to remember and recount his past, much of which he has chosen to repress.

 "It surprised him that he was remembering all this. Maybe it was the walking. Maybe you saw even more than the land when you got out of the car and used your feet."

With just the clothes he had on when he left the house, Harold is forced to step outside of his comfort zone and interact with those he encounters. Many of these people are 'stuck' as well. Harold seems to grow a little bit more with every connection and every step he takes. Harold's journey has an effect on Maureen as well - although she is not walking, she too is on a journey of self discovery.

"In walking, he freed that past that he had spent twenty years seeking to avoid, and now it chattered and played through his head with a wild energy that was its own. He no longer saw distance in terms of miles. He measured it with his remembering."

Oh, what can I say -  I absolutely loved this book! Joyce has created a marvellous character in Harold - he fairly leapt off the page for me.  I shared his sadness, urged him on when he faltered and was sitting on the edge of my chair in the final chapters. But it was Harold's (re)discovering of himself that had me alternating between tears and joy. Joyce's exploration of the human spirit is by turns heart breaking and life affirming. Harold's journey is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of redemption. Just an absolutely fantastic debut.

Do yourself a favour - take a walk with Harold - it's a road worth travelling. Also available as an audio book.

~Luanne~