Book Club News
"The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" by Rachel Joyce
Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack of quotidian minutiae is a letter addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn’t seen or heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye.
Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, heads to the corner mailbox. But then, as happens in the very best works of fiction, Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. And thus begins the unlikely pilgrimage at the heart of Rachel Joyce’s remarkable debut. Harold Fry is determined to walk six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed because, he believes, as long as he walks, Queenie Hennessey will live.
Still in his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold embarks on his urgent quest across the countryside. Along the way he meets one fascinating character after another, each of whom unlocks his long-dormant spirit and sense of promise. Memories of his first dance with Maureen, his wedding day, his joy in fatherhood, come rushing back to him—allowing him to also reconcile the losses and the regrets. As for Maureen, she finds herself missing Harold for the first time in years.
And then there is the unfinished business with Queenie Hennessy.
Book Trailer from Random House Publishing Group
An Interview with Rachel Joyce
"Accomplished BBC playwright Joyce’s debut novel is a gentle and genteel charmer, brimming with British quirkiness yet quietly haunting in its poignant and wise examination of love and devotion."
–Booklist, Starred Review
"Manipulative but moving, for readers who don't mind having their strings pulled."
"Joyce, a former actress and acclaimed BBC scriptwriter here publishing her first novel, depicts Harold's personal crisis and the extraordinary pilgrimage it generates in masterly fashion, exploring psychological complexities with compassion and insight. The result is a novel of deep beauty and wisdom about the human condition; Harold, a deeply sympathetic protagonist, has much to teach us.”
A Sequel is Coming!
When Queenie Hennessy discovers that Harold Fry is walking the length of England to save her, and all she has to do is wait, she is shocked. Her note to him had explained she was dying from cancer. How can she wait?
A new volunteer at the hospice suggests that Queenie should write again; only this time she must tell Harold the truth. Composing this new message, the volunteer promises, will ensure Queenie hangs on. It will also atone for the secrets of the past. As the volunteer points out, ‘It isn’t Harold who is saving you. It is you, saving Harold Fry.’
This is that letter. A letter that was never sent.
Told in simple, emotionally-honest prose, with a mischievous bite, this is a novel about the journey we all must take to learn who we are; it is about loving and letting go. And most of all it is about finding joy in unexpected places and at times we least expect.
Queenie thought her first letter would be the end of the story. She was wrong. It was just the beginning…
Rachel Joyce is the award-winning writer of more than twenty plays for BBC Radio 4. She started writing after a twenty-year acting career, in which she performed leading roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company and won multiple awards. Her second novel, "Perfect", was published in July 2013 to great critical acclaim. She was awarded the Specsavers National Book Awards ‘New Writer of the Year’ in December 2012.
Rachel Joyce lives with her family on a Gloucestershire farm.