Monday, May 12, 2014

Books: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
By Rachel Joyce
Copyright 2013
330 pages (plus interview & readers guide)

Harold Fry is an older retired gentleman in an apparently loveless marriage. One day he gets a letter from an old co-worker, who tells him she has cancer and is dying.

He writes a short reply, and then sets out to take it to the mailbox. One thing leads to another, and then next thing you know, he has it in his head that he will walk to see her, even though it is hundreds of miles away. As long as he has faith and believes in the power of his walk, she will live.

And so Fry begins his journey, meeting various characters along the way. Those folks are peripheral to the story, for it is Fry that we come to know. His memories, his feelings, his thoughts. His is an Everyman tale - we are all alone, sad, lost, and broken, aren't we? And at the same time willful, strong, happy, and capable. Such a bundle, people are.

The book does change point of view, bouncing back to Harold's wife from time to time. At the end, the book changes point of view once more to give us a few pages of the co-worker's perspective.

Author Rachel Joyce won the Man Booker Prize for her work. She writes with an eloquence of language not found everyday. She does mislead the careless reader, and I have read a few criticisms of that, but I was not mislead and so the ending neither surprised or delighted; it was as I expected, for the most part.

I think the book touched a lot of nerves because we are in an age when we do not do self-circumspection very well. We don't look inside our selves, much less have empathy for others. Harold Fry encourages us all to be the best "us" we can be, something at which society at as a whole tends to be failing.

We need more Harold Frys, I suppose. More common folk ready and able to put their feet forward, and start a movement.

1 comment:

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