zondag 1 mei 2016

"The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" by Rachel Joyce

“If I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, it stands to reason that I'm going to get there. I've begun to think we sit far more than we're supposed to. (...) Why else would we have feet?”

Harold Fry has just retired when he receives a letter from an old friend, Queeny Hennessy. The letter says that she is terminally ill - she has an inoperable cancer that will end her life soon. Saddened by the news, Harold writes Queeny a letter. He leaves his home to post it, but when he gets to the the mailbox, he decides to walk a little further to the next one... and the next... and the next. As he walks on, he feels that he just has to continue his walk until he can visit Queeny in person. He becomes almost religiously convinced that his walk will save her, so he sets on a journey that will take him from the south of England, all the way to the north, a hike of hundreds of miles.

Soon, Harold's 'pilgrimage' becomes major news and several pilgrims join him on his 'Walk for Life'. Harold, on the other hand, knows only one thing: he has to keep on walking to save Queeny's life. On his journey, Harold meets lots of different people, not all of them very nice. But they will all teach him something. While walking, Harold reflects on life, his upbringing, his marriage, the troubled relationship with his son,... and he realizes that he's not only walking to save Queeny, but also to cure himself.

What a wonderful novel this is. It's funny, sad, uplifting, heartbreaking,... often all at the same time. A story like this always risks getting overly sentimental, but this isn't the case in this novel. Also, in a time a lot of books are written in which older people are used more as a gimmick than as believable characters, it is refreshing to see that Harold is just a normal person, unremarkable but for his surprising quest. Definitely one of the best books I've read this year.

Title: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Author: Rachel Joyce
Publisher: Black Swan, London
Year: 2012
Number of pages: 365 p.
ISBN: 9780552778091

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