Bookworks Presents It's About Books April Featuring THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY

Bookworks Presents It's About Books April Featuring THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce is just that; a pilgrimage that was not planned and not one that Harold particularly wanted to make. Rather it was a pilgrimage that he was driven to make by a particular set of circumstances that coincided with a particular set of emotional demons that he had been suppressing for a particularly long period of time. We never know, and Harold certainly didn't, when those things that we have carefully placed beneath the surface surface eliciting erratic, unplanned, unpredictable behavior.

Harold, nearing or in old age depending on one's perspective, receives a letter from a co-worker long since left in the past who informs him she is dying of cancer. It seems there was a special unspoken understanding or event that happened between herself and Harold when they worked together and she now, on her death bed, wishes to acknowledge not only the event, but their quixotic relationship. Harold is flummoxed. What should he say and how should he say it? He finally gathers his thoughts, writes a brief, but a appropriately conciliatory note and tells his wife he is off to post the letter. But something deep within prevents him from posting the letter and he walks past one letter box after the other until, at the edge of his English village, he comes upon the notion that he will deliver this letter personally even though she is in a nursing home some 500 hundred miles away. He has convinced himself that waiting for this hand delivered letter is the one thing that will keep her alive long enough for them to reconcile and indeed, be cured of cancer. He leaves behind a wife from whom he is all but estranged and a life of mind-numbing predictability.

So Harold is now on a mission without provisions, proper clothing or even his cell phone which he has forgotten at home. This trek is somewhat of a miracle in and of itself. Harold is a man consumed with regret. The people he meets along the way, the notoriety that plagues him, the long distance telephone calls with his wife, all work together in some mysterious way to heal and repair not only his damaged soul, but that of his wife's also. As with any good author, Joyce pulls the string of events from Harold's life together and reveals why he has such deep regrets as the book ends. Harold's pilgrimage proves there is relief from a world filled with grief. One just needs to be open to the possibilities.

Joanne Matzenbacher
editor, It's About Books

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