Although I am a fan of mysteries and books filled with action and suspense, I find that more and more I value quieter books that focus on unlikely heroes in unusual circumstances. THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY is one of those books. Retiree Harold Fry lives in a quiet life with his wife Maureen in a small English village. With the exception of his wife's apparent growing irritation with him, Harold's days pass quietly with little change. One day, Harold receives a letter from his old friend Queenie Hennessey. Harold hasn't seen Queenie for many years and now she is in hospice and writing to say goodbye. The letter stirs something in Harold. He writes a response and heads to the post office but can't bring himself to post the letter. Instead, he starts walking. He decides to walk the 600 miles from his home to the hospice where Queenie resides. He becomes convinced that as long as he walks, Queenie will live. Along the way, Harold meets a variety of interesting characters and learns a great deal about humanity and himself. His pilgrimage begins to have far-reaching consequences both for Harold, his wife and the people who become a part of it.
This is a lovely story about a quiet man driven to do something extraordinary. Harold's motivation doesn't really become clear until the end of the book but his story reveals something about how every person has a story. It reminded me of the Plato quotation, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." We cannot know what stories of quiet desperation the people around us are concealing. Sometimes, we have to slow down in order to connect with others. This is a beautiful and moving story and will probably end up being one of my favorites this year.
BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended. A very sweet and moving tale that reminds us of how everyone has a story and that one of the most profound things we can do is listen and connect.