Reviews for Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Booklist Reviews 2012 June #1
*Starred Review* Spontaneity has never been Harold Fry's strong suit, especially once he retired. Just ask his long-suffering wife, Maureen. So imagine her surprise when Harold abruptly decides to walk 500 miles to the north of England in a naive attempt to save a dying woman, a colleague he once knew briefly but to whom he hadn't spoken in 20 years. It's the proverbial case of a man going out to mail a letter and never coming home. Clad only in his everyday garb, lacking a cell phone, backpack, or reliable sense of direction, Fry puts one poorly shod foot in front of the other and trudges through villages and hamlets, often relying on the kindness of strangers to keep his momentum going. To the object of his inspiration, the fading Queenie Hennessy, he writes pithy postcards, bravely exhorting her not to die. Solitary walks are perfect for imagining how one might set the world to rights, and Harold does just that, although not always with uplifting results, as he ruminates on missed opportunities and failed relationships. 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. Sure to become a book-club favorite. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2012 June #1
Those with the patience to accompany the protagonist on this meandering journey will receive an emotional payoff at the end. The debut novel by an award-winning British radio playwright (and actor) offers an allegory that requires many leaps of faith, while straddling the line between the charming and cloying (as well as the comic and melodramatic). The title character has recently retired from his office job at a brewery, lives with a wife who hasn't loved him for decades--since their intelligent, perhaps disturbed son sparked her estrangement from her husband--and appears destined to live his life in everyday limbo until the grave. Then, one day, he receives a letter from a female co-worker with whom he had once been close but hasn't been in contact for 20 years. She is dying from cancer and has written to let him know, to say goodbye. Without planning or preparation, he embarks on the title's "unlikely pilgrimage," somehow believing that if he can walk the hundreds of miles over the many months it will take him, she will remain alive to welcome him. On his journey, he meets a bunch of characters, becomes something of a celebrity and learns a little bit more about the meaning of life. These lessons are articulated in homilies such as "you could be ordinary and attempt something extraordinary," and "Maybe it's what the world needs. A little less sense, and a little more faith." Maybe, but if such sentiments seem akin to those from one of Mitch Albom's bestselling parables, the novel's evocation of everyday British reticence, heartbreak and wonder occasionally suggest the depths of the great Graham Swift. The final chapters of the novel resolve the mysteries that have been underlying the rest--how the son divided his parents, why the co-worker had disappeared from Harold's life--and there's a powerful resolution in which all's well that ends well. Manipulative but moving, for readers who don't mind having their strings pulled. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews 2012 June #1
Soon after his retirement from a brewery in a quiet English village, Harold Fry receives a surprising letter. It's from beloved friend and colleague Queenie Hennessy, whom he hasn't heard from in 20 years, writing from a distant terminal cancer ward to say good-bye. This letter returns Harold to a horrifically painful part of his past, threatens his already troubled marriage, and ultimately leads to a crisis that casts into doubt everything he thinks he knows about himself. He decides to embark on a 600-mile walk to say goodbye to Queenie in person. 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. VERDICT A great novel; essential reading for fans of literary fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 2/27/12.]--Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT [Page 93]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal Reviews Newsletter
A leading actor with the Royal Shakespeare Company, then an award-winning author of plays for the BBC, Joyce is taking on another role: novelist. And a successful one at that, it seems, with rights for this debut sold to more than 25 countries. When cranky retiree Harold Fry gets a letter from an old friend he's not seen in two decades, revealing that she's in hospice, he decides to visit her. And he decides that to do so he'll walk the 600 miles from Kingsbridge to Berwick upon Tweed. Refreshing premise; let's all watch. - "Mantel to Zafón " LJ Reviews 3/1/2012 (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 April #5
When Harold Fry, a morbidly shy, retired British brewery salesman, decides on a whim to walk the distance between his home in southern England and the hospice where his long-lost friend, Queenie Hennessey, is dying of cancer, he has no idea that his act will change his life and inspire hundreds of people. The motivation behind the trek and why he is burdened by guilt and the need to atone, are gradually revealed in this initially captivating but finally pedestrian first novel by English writer Joyce. During Harold's arduous trek, which covers 627 miles and 87 days, he uncoils the memory of his destructive rampage for which Queenie took the blame. He also acknowledges the unraveling of his marriage and his anguish about the lack of intimacy with his son. Plagued by doubt and exhaustion, he undergoes a dark night of the soul, but in the tradition of classical pilgrimages, he ultimately achieves spiritual affirmation. Joyce writes with precision about the changing landscape as Harold trudges his way across England. Early chapters of the book are beguiling, but a final revelation tests credulity, and the sentimental ending may be an overdose of what the Brits call "pudding." Agent: Conville & Walsh Literary Agency. (July) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC