The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry by Rachel JoyceThe Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry

byRachel Joyce

Hardcover | January 11, 2017

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Recently retired, sweet, emotionally numb Harold Fry is jolted out of his passivity by a letter from Queenie Hennessy, an old friend, who he hasn't heard from in twenty years. She has written to say she is in hospice and wanted to say goodbye. Leaving his tense, bitter wife Maureen to her chores, Harold intends a quick walk to the corner mailbox to post his reply but instead, inspired by a chance encounter, he becomes convinced he must deliver his message in person to Queenie--who is 600 miles away--because as long as he keeps walking, Harold believes that Queenie will not die. So without hiking boots, rain gear, map or cell phone, one of the most endearing characters in current fiction begins his unlikely pilgrimage across the English countryside. Along the way, strangers stir up memories--flashbacks, often painful, from when his marriage was filled with promise and then not, of his inadequacy as a father, and of his shortcomings as a husband. Ironically, his wife Maureen, shocked by her husband's sudden absence, begins to long for his presence. Is it possible for Harold and Maureen to bridge the distance between them? And will Queenie be alive to see Harold arrive at her door?
The author, Rachel Joyce, has written over twenty original afternoon plays for BBC Radio 4, and has created major adaptations for the Classic series and Woman’s Hour, as well as a TV drama adaptation for BBC2. In 2007 she won the Tinniswood Award for Best Radio Play. Joyce moved to writing after a twenty-year career in theatre and tele...
Title:The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold FryFormat:HardcoverDimensions:336 pages, 8.55 × 5.78 × 1.03 inPublished:January 11, 2017Publisher:Doubleday CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385677693

ISBN - 13:9780385677691

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Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not terrible, but disappointing I'm really torn about this one. The first 200 pages were painfully slow and dull, the addition of the joining pilgrims was just asinine, and you pretty much just want to slap Harold and his wife, Maureen. But through all of that, Joyce does manage to make us sad for a character we never really get to know, and she shows that it's never too late to change your life. This book has such great reviews and the premise is certainly interesting, but the story just didn't deliver. I am willing to give The Love Song of Queenie Hennessy a try, though. It looks a bit more promising.
Date published: 2017-11-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from okay an easy read. good story line.not quite believable.
Date published: 2017-11-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok I read quite a bit over the last few days. The plot-twists left me shocked and confused in the best way. It left me thinking hard, pondering every detail of the book. I would definitely recommend.
Date published: 2017-10-05
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not that great. I found this book very slow.
Date published: 2017-09-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Was Really Sweet Was really nice to read. It didn't blow my socks off, but still happy with it.
Date published: 2017-08-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from worth the read Read this book a few years ago. The description is accurate, the main character is very endearing. A very heartwarming and smooth read. Definitely recommend to anyone not looking for an overly-dramatic story.
Date published: 2017-08-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really good Was really impressed with this book
Date published: 2017-07-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from just ordered this one I just rec'd this book from chapters online and am a quarter of the way through it. It's written in such a quaint, English style and from page one there is not a dull moment. Harold who is a predicable senior citizen received an unexpected letter one day from an old frend named Queenie and he learns she has cancer. So he pens a letter to her and goes to post it but finds he wants to go on foot or on a journey to deliver this letter to his old friend. That's the point I am at. It's such a fast read and very well written.
Date published: 2017-07-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Different from my usual reads Enjoyed this book very much. Read it in a short period of time which I like every now and then. Felt for Harold the main character and what he had gone through. Makes you stop and think about what's important in your life. Would recommend for sure.
Date published: 2017-07-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from An easy read Read this book if you don't want to think too hard about a complex storyline. Enjoyable and light.
Date published: 2017-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Harold Fry....bless your cotton socks God Bless Harold Fry!!! Cried will too.
Date published: 2017-06-06
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Fun, Quick Read Nice read for a weekend afternoon. Not life-changing, but pretty emotional and relatable on the personal challenges that people face throughout one's life.
Date published: 2017-04-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best read of 2017 I received this book as a gift,and am so glad I did as it is one I would not ordinarily have purchased for myself. I dutifully began to read it and was enthralled by the characters and the journey I went on with them. I have to say, I found it engrossing and hard to put down. Yet, as I neared the end of the book I hesitated to finish it too soon as I did not want to say goodbye to the characters I had come to know and love. Harold Fry, recently retired and living a quiet, predictable life with his wife Maureen, is so endearing, yet irritatingly placid at times, made a remarkable choice one ordinary day that changed the course of his life, placid no more! Harold, one day, received a letter from an old workmate that sparked in him a need to do something to make known to this person how much their time as co-workders had meant to him. He thought that by doing so he could, somehow, save her. I found the plot and the unfurling of the characters a joy. I would highly recommend everyone put this book on their list of books to read. And be sure to read the companion book, "The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy." I am ordering it today!
Date published: 2017-04-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A bit slow I bit slow. I had been told this was an amazing read so perhaps I had my standards too high. it was enjoyable - but not the best I've read. Slow at times.
Date published: 2017-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Story This book was unlike anything I'be ever read. I really enjoyed the writing style. A Tale full of sorrow but also of simple hope. I throughly enjoyed it, from the first page to the last!
Date published: 2017-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from heartwarming I really enjoyed this book. It was one I wanted to save quotes from and it made me think about life. I remember smiling as I was reading it.
Date published: 2017-01-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent read If you want a beautiful story, pick up this book.
Date published: 2016-11-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from wonderful story I have read this book twice now, although it feels more like I've completed Harold Fry's journey with him twice. What a great story. You will fall in love with Harold, such an unlikely hero who very innocently sets out on a journey that becomes much more than he intended, and ends up helping him work through some of the trying and tragic events in his life. Unique, emotional, gripping. A journey worth taking, more than once. The sequel, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy is equally as captivating.I highly recommend both books. Beautifuuly written.
Date published: 2015-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Nice!!! Totally good read. Not a spellbinder but full of good moments. Read it over time with many pauses but always liked getting back to it.
Date published: 2015-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harald F This book was amazing. A book for those who feel things deeply. We witness an ordinary man do something extrodinary and in the process review and change his life. This book is SO well written you may find yourself stopping after reading something special just to think about it longer, like I did often. This one will stay with me. BRAVO!
Date published: 2015-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Will surprise you I read this for a book club, and was surprised by how effortless the read is, and how hooked you get into Howard and his journey. Nothing overly complicated here; read this book if you are looking for a beautiful story, something heartfelt, and honest.
Date published: 2015-06-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You have to go the distance! I could not put this book down. As Harold travels and learns about life one reflects upon his or her own life. Harold's evolution is both heartbreaking and wonderful and you have to stay with his journey to the end.
Date published: 2015-05-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Breathtaking I've been struggling to finish books lately, but this a finished in less than a week. Its vulnerable and poignant. It has moments where it tries a little too hard to be deep and meaningful, but overall a wonderfully woven tale, I cried through about the last 5 chapters.
Date published: 2015-04-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Thoughtful expression of introvert on a mission. I was quite immersed in the relationships Harold experienced during his pilgrimage. One of the highlight books for my book club in 2014.
Date published: 2015-02-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not bad Enjoyable, light and sweet. It was a little dull in places but overall a really nice book. It gave such depth of understanding into the marriage of an elderly couple.
Date published: 2015-02-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Execellent Read I read this book in 2 days and have passed it on and recommended it to others
Date published: 2015-01-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved! Loved! Loved!! Oh my goodness!! I am usually not a fan of anything that makes me cry, but I will make this an exception. I will not tell you if they were tears of joy or tears of sadness. But for the last 20 pages I had a Kleenex in my hand. I loved this book. It was such an emotional, thought-provoking story and you should definitely start reading it right now! :)
Date published: 2014-10-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Harold Fry A little slow. Not much action, but a good story in the end.
Date published: 2014-10-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fr Thought provoking and moving
Date published: 2014-10-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The unlikely pilgrimage of harold fr Very enjoyable. All throughout you were anticipating the conclusion that was well developed. Many surprises too. Heart warming and one to recommend.
Date published: 2014-10-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fr Very moving and deep
Date published: 2014-09-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A wonderful journey. This was a story that felt so real at times that the reader could almost feel his blisters. It's a story of hope and endurance and reflection of his life.
Date published: 2014-09-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent read - really enjoyed I enjoyed this book very much. I feel very drawn to the idea of stripping life down to its bare essentials and having time to reflect. Not enough of this in everyday life. I am also a big believer in second chances. I found a lot in this book tg at drew me in and made me think.
Date published: 2014-08-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful story Really loved this book. A great read, and a wonderful journey. I would say this book is more about the story than the ending. Loved it!
Date published: 2014-07-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unlikely Pilgrimage A very wonderful read. The emotions of the characters are expressed so well, you can feel and empathize with all of them. I loved the journey both physically and mentally, Good lessons for overcoming regrets, achieving acceptance and growth.
Date published: 2014-06-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good read Enjoyable page turned! Great vacation read!
Date published: 2014-04-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Ms. Good read. Lots of good character development and just enoigh suprises.
Date published: 2014-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent book!! I highly recommend this well-written book.
Date published: 2014-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry I couldn't wait to read this book as it came highly recommended. Best book I've read in a long, long time. I loved the river of emotions I felt; surprise, frustration, sadness, anger and relief. I will recommending this book to friends and colleagues.
Date published: 2014-01-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent book!! Loved this book! Worth the read!!
Date published: 2014-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent book!! This is one of the most touching books I have read in a very long time. It is a roller coaster of emotion as Harold makes his journey which touches the lives of so many other people along the way. It made me laugh, it made me cry. Just when I thought there was nothing else to reveal another big secret was revealed! Truly un-put-down-able and a delight from beginning to end.
Date published: 2014-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Have read it twice: Loved it In a novel that is by turns hilarious and deeply serious, Harold sets out to walk the length of England, hoping passionately, but irrationally, to bring healing to an old friend who’s dying of cancer. As readers, we are privy to Harold’s thoughts and musings on a deeply wounded past. As he weathers more than his share of disasters and heartbreaks, Harold also experiences a healing of the heart in a novel that deftly avoids the maudlin and sentimental even as it presents a welcome antidote to the deep cynicism so prevalent in contemporary novels. The characters are beautifully rendered, especially Harold and his wife Maureen. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2013-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Happy to have met you Harold! What a delightful story to spend time with. It is short and well written. The author uses evocative language such as; " when the house itself seemed to hold its breath". This book is full of descriptive phrases that help the reader feel as if one is watching the pilgrimage take place in their own town. Its a thought provoking tale we should pay attention to.
Date published: 2013-03-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A "must read" Sometime you come across a story that you share with others. This is such a story. A wonderful read. We should all take a pilrimage in our later years...if we are lucky enough to live this long. Harold was a fantastic character. Will be sharing this book with all of my friends.
Date published: 2013-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic How many of us would like to do what Harold did, I sure would to just get up and keep walking , meeting characters along the way, not know what they are like and realizing that they dont have same agenda as you and the impact they will have on our life., I missed Harold and his wife when I was finished reading this book. I I would definetly read this book again.....
Date published: 2013-01-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Moving and profound A moving story of life, death, redemption and the importance of relationships. Harold, a plain Englishman receives a letter from an old friend who is dying of cancer. He walks to the mailbox to send his reply but instead keeps walking. If he can only walk the 500 miles to see her one more time, she may keep living. Thus begins his journey towards redemption. As he walks he gains clarity in how his life went wrong and things he wishes he could put right. We also see through the eyes of his wife who struggles with her own emotions and begins her own journey of sorts. Walking is a favorite activity of mine, it's a fine way to sort through complex issues and often brings a clarity of mind. It makes me wish that pilgrimages were more common in modern day.
Date published: 2013-01-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry Have you ever ventured out to the corner store to buy milk and wondered what would happen if you just kept on going? What adventures would you have if you went straight instead of turning back? What kind of people would you meet along the way, and how would they change your life? And what about the people left behind? What would their stories be? After receiving a letter from a dying friend, Harold Fry wrote her a note of reply and then headed off to the nearest post box to mail it. And then, wearing ordinary clothes and yachting shoes, and without so much as a cell phone, he kept going straight instead of turning back. On his unintentional pilgrimage across Great Britain, Harold Fry encountered an adventure or two and learned a lot about himself along the way. Rachel Joyce weaves Harold's story in with those of his son, his wife, the neighbour who supports her, and the dying friend. Using different points of view, Joyce takes the reader on a pilgrimage to understand one family's story as perceived in different ways. We get the full picture of the characters and their life experiences by balancing what they have to say about themselves with what others say about them. Joyce puts on full display the mental games we play with ourselves to get through the day. The inability to accurately perceive self and others is a theme of the book. Joyce's characters' perceptions of self are blurred by anger or self-doubt. They also hold skewed perceptions of others because of lack of communication or misunderstanding. The media outlets in the book make a mess of telling an accurate story— it's human nature to gossip and to make the gossip the best possible story. And other people outright lie. Harold's pilgrimage is one of body and soul. It walks him through faith and doubt, joy and sorrow, and physical development and deterioration. He learns to keep putting one foot in front of another all the same. He learns the basic goodness of humanity. He learns that when someone is healed, it doesn't mean they're cured. And he learns that you can't save everyone. When you finish this book, you will think it was a simple story. Then you'll think about it some more. The more you think about it, the more profound it will become. It's a potent story, simply told.
Date published: 2013-01-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Hit the mark !! Excellent read, the author weaves a charming story of an individual's life at 60 plus. The English countryside and it's characters met along the journey bring out clarity in Harold Fry's life. Questions that he reluctantly did not address previously in his lifetime give him peace on his journey to say farewell to a friend. A descriptive tapestry from Joyce that made me think of some of my 60 plus years on the planet....Bravo!
Date published: 2013-01-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from READ THIS IF YOU: NEED INSPIRATION NEED TO GET OUT OF A 'RUT' NEED MOTIVATION NEED TO SEE THE BEST IN HUMAN KIND NEED TO LAUGH NEED TO CRY NEED TO REDISCOVER LOVE NEED TO CHECK OUT FOR A BIT I found this story captivating and enjoyable- well written with an interesting story line. You can't go wrong with this story
Date published: 2012-12-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing The tale of Harald and his Wife's journey to acceptance, appreciation and back to love is a story I will never forget.
Date published: 2012-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Summarizes the book perfectly It's a page-turner. Sweet, nice story with endearing characters.
Date published: 2012-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Haunting and Beautiful As the readers before me have said, this book is incredibly moving. It is beautifully written and I am so glad to have read this book. It is the type of story that has touched me deeply and even has me reevaluating my own life.
Date published: 2012-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very moving! The book was an adventure, a spur of the moment kind of thing. About plain man, married to a naggy women whose marriage was split apart by something that you will learn later in the story. Harold Fry decides that he's going to walk all the way to North Scotland to see a women he worked with, who's dying of cancer. But, she must stay alive until he gets there. Folks, make sure you have a box of tissues next to you when you read the end. Although, it does end happily, it's one of the saddest books I've read in a long time. Why would you want to read such a book, you ask? Because you'll be a better person if you do.
Date published: 2012-10-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Book! What a great story! This book is so beauitfully written. It is a very inspirational story, sad at times and funny too...but mostly just a wonderfully written story about not giving up. I couldn't put this book down. Think I'll have to read this one again :)
Date published: 2012-10-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Couldn't put it down What a beautiful, moving story! You can't help but love Harold, such an unlikely hero, and cheer him on as he tries to reconcile with his old friend, Queenie. A moving story of forgiveness and redemption.
Date published: 2012-10-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good read This book was a good and fast read. Found some parts funny and kind of made you think of your life. Was happy that everything turned out good at the end.
Date published: 2012-09-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely beautiful Sometimes you start a book and you know right away. You just know that this will be one of those books that sticks with you for a long time to come. You'll hang on every word, every interaction and each one will touch you deeply. This was my experience with The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. It is the characters that really make this book an amazing experience (though the story will captivate you as well). Harold Fry moved me in a way I definitely hadn't expected. I found myself cheering for Harold when things were going his way, crying out for him when obstacles came up against him. There were a couple of times where actual, full blown tears came to my eyes. I loved Harold's spirit, I loved the honesty about who he was and how he saw himself, and most of all I found myself connecting with him in a incredibly personal way. And I don't think I'm the only one that will have that experience. Although if we're being honest, the real surprise wasn't how much I fell in love with Harold's character. The real surprise was Maureen. At the beginning of the novel, she's a bit annoying and uppity but as the story progresses you learn just how layered her character truly is. At times her own struggles really stole the show and I was amazed by how badly I misjudged her. I found myself cheering for her, just as much as I was cheering for Harold. I had no idea what to expect from this book. As this is a mostly speculative fiction blog, you can guess that it's not the type of book I usually read. And at face value I don't have that much in common with Harold. But that is where this book is unique. It's a book that spoke to me in a very universal way. I may not look like Harold or live where he lives but we're all on a journey of one kind or another and Harold's journey is just one manifestation of that.The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry has been nominated for the Booker Prize and it would not surprise me at all if it walks away with the award. This and other reviews at Hooked on Books (
Date published: 2012-09-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sweet and joyous What's not to love about a modern day, unlikely hero going on an accidental quest? A wonderful tale of human nature and the complex relationships we all share. Harold is a lovable and flawed man carrying life's burdens. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel!
Date published: 2012-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lovely and tender Such a heartwarming and tender book. It is a keeper and I will enjoy re-reading this for years to come.
Date published: 2012-09-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thoughtful, Uplifting Read! Harold Fry receives a letter from an old friend and colleague that she is in hospice. Queenie, his old friend ,does not have long to live. Harold is so touched by the letter, that he sets off by foot, to visit her, without thinking clearly about the 100 mile walk he is embarking on. When Harold places a brief call to the hospice, a Sister there suggests to him that many dying people will hang on to life until seeing those dear to them. Thus Harold continues on his walk - or pilgrimage, to see his colleague. Our protagonist is a 65 year old man, retired and in a stale and somewhat cold marriage. Something has gone awry with their son, but we are not privy to what that is until very close to the end of the book. As Harold walks each day , he reflects back on his childhood, marriage, how he failed his son and many other events in his life. As he walks he is joined by people from all " walks" of life. Each person affects him in different ways and helps evoke certain memories from Harold's life. These people also give him him hope and appreciation for life as they share small portions of their varied lives. Harold's world grows much broader. I found myself underlining many passages of wisdom as I read the book . While I did not find the book to be sentimental, I challenge anyone who reads the book not to have tears in their eyes during the last pages in the book. Although The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is long - listed for the Booker, I suspect it will not make the short list. That said, I found this to both the most uplifting and also heartbreaking book that I have read in a long time. I have my copy on a kindle, and I plan to pick up a paper copy so as to underline all of the passages that I so enjoyed. I also think that The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry will find a very large audience. I plan to purchase several copies to give away as gifts. A thoughtful , insightful, wonderful read , widely recommended.
Date published: 2012-09-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely the best novel this year I have read many novels this year and this one is one of the best. You find yourself falling in love with Harold Fry.. his determination to keep walking through his pain. Makes you laugh and makes you cry, and makes you think about your life. The only other thing I can say, its a must read for this week, it will keep you awake on Harold Fry's journey.
Date published: 2012-08-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Amazing Read I have not read just a great read in a long time. One must go on a journey with Harold Fry and cheer him on through blisters and aching muscles as he makes his journey. The characters were so well fleshed out that you cannot help but root for all of them. I cannot say more except you must read this book this summer.
Date published: 2012-08-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! You'll fall in love with Harold Fry.
Date published: 2012-08-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A simple task + simple premise = moving & profound story Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ (4.5/5 stars) Harold Fry, a meek, retired man with a not-so-loving wife receives a letter from an old friend one day telling him that she is dying. He writes up a response and heads out to the corner mailbox to send it off. Upon reaching the mailbox moments later, he realizes that this is not a sufficient response for a dear friend so he keeps walking to the next corner, and then the following one after that. Before he knows it, Harold has embarked on a journey to walk across the country to his friend, in the hopes – and faith – that his walk will keep her alive if she waits for him to get there. The cast of characters he meets along the way leaves a mark with Harold as he continues walking along, pushing through even when it gets tough. A simple task with a simple premise makes for a moving and profound story. The journey that Harold goes on is not only a literal one but also a mental and metaphorical one. He comes to discover, and rediscover much of what he felt he had lost with his loveless marriage. While Harold is walking from the South of England to the North, his wife finds that her hardened shell is softening as she realizes how much she misses the husband that she has antagonized for so many years of their marriage. There were many poignant moments where Harold meets others with their own sets of woes and worries, and finds strength and motivation from them to keep going. Each with their own problems but also an inspirational spirit about them, many showing their kindness towards an older man on a bizarre trek. I also enjoyed the role that the media played in this story. It’s an interesting statement at how the media influence can affect individuals. For most of the book, I imagined it to be set in an earlier time and if it were not for the mentions of mobile phones and tweeting, this could be a story that withstands the test of time. I don’t necessarily think that it detracts from the story at all, but it might seem dated years down the road when technology and social media trends have moved on. This, and other reviews can be found on my blog
Date published: 2012-08-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best of the Year This was my favourite book I have read so far this year. It's the kind of book that stays with you long after you have finished reading. I am so happy it is finally out in stores! For my full review, check out the blog I wrote for here:
Date published: 2012-08-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my favorite books this year - marvelous! The Good Stuff So incredibly good I could not put it down even though it was 2am and I had to get up at 6am This one will win awards people So honest and real and makes you self reflect on your own life I was bawling on many occasions (but I was smart this time I read this kind of book at home) Harold is such a fascinating character - so very real - warts and all - the type of man we all have met in some point in our own lives So honestly portrays grief, guilt and forgiveness So many wonderful insights about life Uncomfortable to read at times as it makes you look into yourself and the see some of the misplaced anger and resentment that can occur in a marriage and the joys and horror of raising a child I am having a really difficult time expressing how incredibly wonderful book this is, but I was incredibly moved by it and well just go buy it already (or of course support your local library and check out a copy & be really nice to the library staff as they most likely are incredibly awesome) some wonderful light humour perfectly placed at the spot that you need it most The Not So Good Stuff some minor repetition but nothing too bad It will break your heart (again not really a bad thing more a warning really) So good once you start reading you will not want to put it down -- Rachel Joyce you owe me some very strong tea I was up till the wee hours of the morning reading it Favorite Quotes/Passages "He had never been good at expressing himself. What he felt was so big it was difficult to find the words, and even if he could, it was hardly appropriate to write them to someone he had not contacted in twenty years." "They believed in him. They had looked at him in his yachting shoes, and listened to what he said, and they made a decision in their hearts and minds to ignore the evidence and to imagine something bigger and something infinitely more beautiful than the obvious." "He understood that in walking to atone for the mistakes he had made, it was also his journey to accept the strangeness of others. As a passerby, he was in a place where everything, not only the land, was open. People would feel free to talk, and he was free to listen. To carry a little of them as he went. He had neglected so many things that he owed this small piece of generosity to Queenie and the past." "He had learned that it was the smallness of people that filled him with wonder and tenderness, and the loneliness of that too. The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other; and life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had been doing so for a long time. Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and this was the dilemma of being human." Who Should/Shouldn't Read Anyone and everyone should read If you like non stop action and plenty of sex -- well this IS NOT the book for you -- this is a book that you should read and discuss Excellent read for a book club - so many honest discussions could arise from it Know what I am getting for the SIL and sister this year for xmas -- shhh don't tell them! 5 Dewey's I picked this up at BEA and it is signed by the author
Date published: 2012-08-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Another book club recommendation! Humour and depth and a great read. This book is more than about a walk north to meet and ask forgiveness to an old friend. It is about who you meet on the road, that we really are looking for the same things, don't judge people, no matter how different. It is also about the rebuilding of a marriage gone astray and recovery.
Date published: 2012-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Take a walk with Harold There's been lots of buzz about Rachel Joyce's debut novel - The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Harold lives in the southern part of England. He is a quiet man, who has tried to keep a low profile in life, preferring not to draw attention to himself. He has recently retired and now stays at home with his wife Maureen, filling the days with small, mundane tasks. But, the relationship between himself and Maureen is growing increasingly fractious. One day the post arrives - with a letter from someone named Queenie Hennessey. Queenie and Harold worked together many years ago, but haven't kept in touch. Queenie is dying and has written a good bye letter to Harold. Harold feels he should send a reply, so he does and dutifully sets off to mail it straight away. Except.....when he reaches the post box, he decides to post it at the next box. And then he has an epiphany - why not deliver the letter in person? And if he can walk the 600 miles to Queenie - she won't die. And that moment marks the beginning of Harold's pilgrimage. "Tell her Harold Fry is on his way. All she has to do is wait. Because I am going to save her, you see. I will keep walking and she must keep living." As Harold walks, he begins to remember and recount his past, much of which he has chosen to repress. "It surprised him that he was remembering all this. Maybe it was the walking. Maybe you saw even more than the land when you got out of the car and used your feet." With just the clothes he had on when he left the house, Harold is forced to step outside of his comfort zone and interact with those he encounters. Many of these people are 'stuck' as well. Harold seems to grow a little bit more with every connection and every step he takes. Harold's journey has an effect on Maureen as well - although she is not walking, she too is on a journey of self discovery. "In waking, he freed that past that he had spent twenty years seeking to avoid, and now it chattered and played through his head with a wild energy that was its own. He no longer saw distance in terms of miles. He measured it with his remembering." Oh, what can I say - I absolutely loved this book! Joyce has created a marvellous character in Harold - he fairly leapt off the page for me. I shared his sadness, urged him on when he faltered and was sitting on the edge of my chair in the final chapters. But it was Harold's (re)discovering of himself that had me alternating between tears and joy. Joyce's exploration of the human spirit is by turns heart breaking and life affirming. Harold's journey is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of redemption. Just an absolutely fantastic debut. Do yourself a favour - take a walk with Harold - it's a road worth travelling.
Date published: 2012-07-09

Read from the Book

1Harold and the LetterThe letter that would change everything arrived on a Tuesday. It was an ordinary morning in mid-April that smelled of clean washing and grass cuttings. Harold Fry sat at the breakfast table, freshly shaved, in a clean shirt and tie, with a slice of toast that he wasn’t eating. He gazed beyond the kitchen window at the clipped lawn, which was spiked in the middle by Maureen’s telescopic washing line, and trapped on all three sides by the neighbors’ stockade fencing.“Harold!” called Maureen above the vacuum cleaner. “Post!”He thought he might like to go out, but the only thing to do was mow the lawn and he had done that yesterday. The vacuum tumbled into silence, and his wife appeared, looking cross, with a letter. She sat opposite Harold.Maureen was a slight woman with a cap of silver hair and a brisk walk. When they first met, nothing had pleased him more than to make her laugh. To watch her neat frame collapse into unruly happiness. “It’s for you,” she said. He didn’t know what she meant until she slid an envelope across the table, and stopped it just short of Harold’s elbow. They both looked at the letter as if they had never seen one before. It was pink. “The postmark says Berwick-upon-Tweed.”He didn’t know anyone in Berwick. He didn’t know many people anywhere. “Maybe it’s a mistake.”“I think not. They don’t get something like a postmark wrong.” She took toast from the rack. She liked it cold and crisp.Harold studied the mysterious envelope. Its pink was not the color of the bathroom suite, or the matching towels and fluffed cover for the toilet seat. That was a vivid shade that made Harold feel he shouldn’t be there. But this was delicate. A Turkish Delight pink. His name and address were scribbled in ballpoint, the clumsy letters collapsing into one another as if a child had dashed them off in a hurry: Mr. H. Fry, 13 Fossebridge Road, Kingsbridge, South Hams. He didn’t recognize the handwriting.“Well?” said Maureen, passing a knife. He held it to the corner of the envelope, and tugged it through the fold. “Careful,” she warned.He could feel her eyes on him as he eased out the letter, and prodded back his reading glasses. The page was typed, and addressed from a place he didn’t know: St. Bernadine’s Hospice. Dear Harold, This may come to you as some surprise. His eyes ran to the bottom of the page.“Well?” said Maureen again.“Good lord. It’s from Queenie Hennessy.”Maureen speared a nugget of butter with her knife and flattened it the length of her toast. “Queenie who?”“She worked at the brewery. Years ago. Don’t you remember?”Maureen shrugged. “I don’t see why I should. I don’t know why I’d remember someone from years ago. Could you pass the jam?”“She was in finances. She was very good.”“That’s the marmalade, Harold. Jam is red. If you look at things before you pick them up, you’ll find it helps.”Harold passed her what she needed and returned to his letter. Beautifully set out, of course; nothing like the muddled writing on the envelope. Then he smiled, remembering this was how it always was with Queenie: everything she did so precise you couldn’t fault it. “She remembers you. She sends her regards.”Maureen’s mouth pinched into a bead. “A chap on the radio was saying the French want our bread. They can’t get it sliced in France. They come over here and they buy it all up. The chap said there might be a shortage by summer.” She paused. “Harold? Is something the matter?”He said nothing. He drew up tall with his lips parted, his face bleached. His voice, when at last it came, was small and far away. “It’s—cancer. Queenie is writing to say goodbye.” He fumbled for more words but there weren’t any. Tugging a handkerchief from his trouser pocket, Harold blew his nose. “I um. Gosh.” Tears crammed his eyes.Moments passed; maybe minutes. Maureen gave a swallow that smacked the silence. “I’m sorry,” she said.He nodded. He ought to look up, but he couldn’t.“It’s a nice morning,” she began again. “Why don’t you fetch out the patio chairs?” But he sat, not moving, not speaking, until she lifted the dirty plates. Moments later the vacuum cleaner took up from the hall.Harold felt winded. If he moved so much as a limb, a muscle, he was afraid it would trigger an abundance of feeling he was doing his best to contain. Why had he let twenty years pass without trying to find Queenie Hennessy? A picture came of the small, dark-haired woman with whom he had worked all that time ago, and it seemed inconceivable that she was—what? Sixty? And dying of cancer in Berwick. Of all the places, he thought; he’d never traveled so far north. He glanced out at the garden and saw a ribbon of plastic caught in the laurel hedging, flapping up and down, but never pulling free. He tucked Queenie’s letter into his pocket, patted it twice for safekeeping, and rose to his feet.Upstairs Maureen shut the door of David’s room quietly and stood a moment, breathing him in. She pulled open his blue curtains that she closed every night, and checked that there was no dust where the hem of the net drapes met the windowsill. She polished the silver frame of his Cambridge portrait, and the black-and-white baby photograph beside it. She kept the room clean because she was waiting for David to come back, and she never knew when that would be. A part of her was always waiting. Men had no idea what it was like to be a mother. The ache of loving a child, even when he had moved on. She thought of Harold downstairs, with his pink letter, and wished she could talk to their son. Maureen left the room as softly as she had entered it, and went to strip the beds.Harold Fry took several sheets of Basildon Bond from the sideboard drawer and one of Maureen’s rollerball pens. What did you say to a dying woman with cancer? He wanted her to know how sorry he felt, but it was wrong to put In Sympathy because that was what the cards in the shops said after, as it were, the event; and anyway it sounded formal, as if he didn’t really care. He tried Dear Miss Hennessy, I sincerely hope your condition improves, but when he put down the pen to inspect his message, it seemed both stiff and unlikely. He crumpled the paper into a ball and tried again. He had never been good at expressing himself. What he felt was so big it was difficult to find the words, and even if he could, it was hardly appropriate to write them to someone he had not contacted in twenty years. Had the shoe been on the other foot, Queenie would have known what to do.“Harold?” Maureen’s voice took him by surprise. He thought she was upstairs, polishing something, or speaking to David. She had her rubber gloves on.“I’m writing Queenie a note.”“A note?” She often repeated what he said.“Yes. Would you like to sign?”“I think not. It would hardly be appropriate to sign a note to someone I don’t know.”It was time to stop worrying about expressing anything beautifully. He would simply have to set down the words in his head: Dear Queenie, Thank you for your letter. I am very sorry. Yours Best wishes—Harold (Fry). It was limp, but there it was. Sliding the letter into an envelope, he sealed it quickly, and copied the address of St. Bernadine’s Hospice onto the front. “I’ll nip to the postbox.”It was past eleven o’clock. He lifted his waterproof jacket from the peg where Maureen liked him to hang it. At the door, the smell of warmth and salt air rushed at his nose, but his wife was at his side before his left foot was over the threshold.“Will you be long?”“I’m only going to the end of the road.”She kept on looking up at him, with her moss-green eyes and her fragile chin, and he wished he knew what to say but he didn’t; at least not in a way that would make any difference. He longed to touch her like in the old days, to lower his head on her shoulder and rest there. “Cheerio, Maureen.” He shut the front door between them, taking care not to let it slam.Built on a hill above Kingsbridge, the houses of Fossebridge Road enjoyed what estate agents called an elevated position, with far-reaching views over the town and countryside. Their front gardens, however, sloped at a precarious angle toward the pavement below, and plants wrapped themselves round bamboo stakes as if hanging on for dear life. Harold strode down the steep concrete path a little faster than he might have wished and noticed five new dandelions. Maybe this afternoon he would get out the Roundup. It would be something.Spotting Harold, the next-door neighbor waved and steered his way toward the adjoining fence. Rex was a short man with tidy feet at the bottom, a small head at the top, and a very round body in the middle, causing Harold to fear sometimes that if he fell there would be no stopping him. He would roll down the hill like a barrel. Rex had been widowed six months ago, at about the time of Harold’s retirement. Since Elizabeth’s death, he liked to talk about how hard life was. He liked to talk about it at great length. “The least you can do is listen,” Maureen said, although Harold wasn’t sure if she meant “you” in the general sense or the particular.“Off for a walk?” said Rex.Harold attempted a jocular tone that would act, he hoped, as an intimation that now was not the time to stop. “Need anything posted, old chap?”“Nobody writes to me. Since Elizabeth passed away, I only get circulars.”Rex gazed into the middle distance and Harold recognized at once the direction the conversation was heading. He threw a look upward; puffs of cloud sat on a tissue-paper sky. “Jolly nice day.”“Jolly nice,” said Rex. There was a pause and Rex poured a sigh into it. “Elizabeth liked the sun.” Another pause.“Good day for mowing, Rex.”“Very good, Harold. Do you compost your grass cuttings? Or do you mulch?”“I find mulching leaves a mess that sticks to my feet. Maureen doesn’t like it when I tread things into the house.” Harold glanced at his yachting shoes and wondered why people wore them when they had no intention of sailing. “Well. Must get on. Catch the midday collection.” Wagging his envelope, Harold turned toward the pavement.For the first time in his life, it was a disappointment to find that the postbox cropped up sooner than expected. Harold tried to cross the road to avoid it, but there it was, waiting for him on the corner of Fossebridge Road. He lifted his letter for Queenie to the slot, and stopped. He looked back at the short distance his feet had traveled.The detached houses were stuccoed and washed in shades of yellow, salmon, and blue. Some still had their pointed fifties roofs with decorative beams in the shape of a half sun; others had slate-clad loft extensions; one had been completely rebuilt in the style of a Swiss chalet. Harold and Maureen had moved here forty-five years ago, just after they were married. It took all his savings to pay the deposit; there had been nothing left for curtains or furniture. They had kept themselves apart from others, and over time neighbors had come and gone, while only Harold and Maureen remained. There had once been vegetable beds, and an ornamental pond. She made chutneys every summer, and David kept goldfish. Behind the house there had been a potting shed that smelled of fertilizer, with high hooks for hanging tools, and coils of twine and rope. But these things too were long since gone. Even their son’s school, which had stood a stone’s throw from his bedroom window, was bulldozed now and replaced with fifty affordable homes in bright primary colors and street lighting in the style of Georgian gas lamps.Harold thought of the words he had written to Queenie, and their inadequacy shamed him. He pictured himself returning home, and Maureen calling David, and life being exactly the same except for Queenie dying in Berwick, and he was overcome. The letter rested on the dark mouth of the postbox. He couldn’t let it go.“After all,” he said out loud, though nobody was looking, “it’s a nice day.” He hadn’t anything else to do. He might as well walk to the next one. He turned the corner of Fossebridge Road before he could change his mind.It was not like Harold to make a snap decision. He saw that. Since his retirement, days went by and nothing changed; only his waist thickened, and he lost more hair. He slept poorly at night, and sometimes he did not sleep at all. Yet, arriving more promptly than he anticipated at a postbox, he paused again. He had started something and he didn’t know what it was, but now that he was doing it, he wasn’t ready to finish. Beads of perspiration sprouted over his forehead; his blood throbbed with anticipation. If he took his letter to the post office on Fore Street, it would be guaranteed next day delivery.The sun pressed warm on the back of his head and shoulders as he strolled down the avenues of new housing. Harold glanced in at people’s windows, and sometimes they were empty, and sometimes people were staring right back at him and he felt obliged to rush on. Sometimes, though, there was an object that he didn’t expect; a porcelain figure, or a vase, and even a tuba. The tender pieces of themselves that people staked as boundaries against the outside world. He tried to visualize what a passerby would learn about himself and Maureen from the windows of 13 Fossebridge Road, before he realized it would be not very much, on account of the net curtains. He headed for the quayside, with the muscles twitching in his thighs.The tide was out and dinghies lolled in a moonscape of black mud, needing paint. Harold hobbled to an empty bench, inched Queenie’s letter from his pocket, and unfolded it.She remembered. After all these years. And yet he had lived out his ordinary life as if what she had done meant nothing. He hadn’t tried to stop her. He hadn’t followed. He hadn’t even said goodbye. The sky and pavement blurred into one as fresh tears swelled his eyes. Then through them came the watery outline of a young mother and child. They seemed to be holding ice cream cones, and bore them like torches. She lifted the boy and set him down on the other end of the bench.“Lovely day,” said Harold, not wanting to sound like an old man who was crying. She didn’t look up, or agree. Bending over her child’s fist, she licked a smooth path to stop the ice cream from running. The boy watched his mother, so still and close it was as if his face was part of hers.Harold wondered if he had ever sat by the quay eating ice cream with David. He was sure he must have done, although searching in his mind for the memory, he found it wasn’t readily available. He must get on. He must post his letter.Office workers were laughing with lunchtime pints outside the Old Creek Inn, but Harold barely noticed. As he began the steep climb up Fore Street, he thought about the mother who was so absorbed in her son she saw no one else. It occurred to him it was Maureen who spoke to David and told him their news. It was Maureen who had always written Harold’s name (“Dad”) in the letters and cards. It was even Maureen who had found the nursing home for his father. And it raised the question—as he pushed the button at the pelican crossing—that if she was, in effect, Harold, “then who am I?”He strode past the post office without even stopping.

Bookclub Guide

1. Harold’s journey is both physical and metaphorical. He is not the only character in the novel to go on a journey and Rachel Joyce has said that writing the book was in itself a journey. What other literary journeys does this novel call to mind?2. Harold says he is not a religious man but his journey is called a pilgrimage and it is undoubtedly a leap of faith. How much and how consciously do you feel RJ draws on Christian tenets and/or other belief systems in the novel.3. Harold is a man with many flaws. Despite, or perhaps because of this, do you see him as an archetypal Englishman? Or is he an Everyman?4. When we first meet Harold and Maureen, while they share breakfast they seem in different worlds. To what extent did you see Maureen as the cause of Harold’s departure?5. The mental health of several characters is called into question in the novel. Depression, Alzheimers, addiction are all diseases that touch many of us and yet mental illness remains to a great extent taboo in our society. How is RJ using this? Do you find it effective?6. Harold and Maureen are married but both are lonely. The couple Harold meets at Buckfast Abbey travel together but have also lost sight of what holds them together. What makes a marriage happy? How much is romantic happiness about being a pair and how much about other people and interests?7. At the start of the book both Harold and Maureen have allowed friends to fall by the wayside. This story is all about how we all connect with one another. What makes someone a true friend and how does RJ represent friendship?8. Regret is an emotion that plays a key part in the novel. Do you think RJ sees it as a positive or negative force?9. Is Harold’s relationship with David the inevitable result of Harold’s own upbringing?10. Rachel Joyce writes beautifully about the English countryside – but how crucial to the telling of her story is the actual landscape she describes? How would it change the novel if it was set in Scotland, perhaps, or France, or..?11. The sea provides bookends for the novel and plays a vivid part in Harold’s memories. Is this significant?12. How does RJ use food, and the sharing of food in the novel?13. How much are Harold’s responses to his fellow pilgrims dic­tated by his past?14. Was the ending of the novel a shock or the inevitable conclusion?15. Who saves who in this novel?16. Has The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry inspired you to do something out of the ordinary – take a journey? Renew contact with someone? Look at strangers with a new perspective? Do share your response with us at

Editorial Reviews - Best 100 Books of - Best 100 Books of 2012Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize“Late last year the time came to pick 2012’s ‘new face’ for books: I read a pile of first novels and enjoyed a few, but there was only one I adored, and that was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry… It is a funny book, a wise book, a charming book – but never cloying.  It’s a book with a savage twist, - and yet never seems manipulative.  Perhaps because Harold himself is just wonderful… This book may follow a pattern set by another radio dramatist-turned-novelist, David Nicholls, whose One Day has now sold more than a million copies and been made into a successful film simply because one reader said to another ‘I love this book’ over and over again.  So I’m telling you now: I love this book.”—The Times “The redemption Joyce offers at the end of this novel is haunting, unexpected and inspiring. She makes you want to leave your phone at home and walk out to discover things.” —The Times (UK) “[A] moving debut.” —The Guardian (UK)"Very rarely, you come upon a novel that feels less like a book than a poignant passage of your own life, and the protagonist like an acquaintance who has gently corrected your path. . . . Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry starts off in just this way. . . . A smart, subtle, funny, painful, weirdly personal novel." —The Globe and Mail“ . . . a gentle adventure with an emotional wallop. It's a smart, feel-good story that doesn't feel forced.” —USA Today “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is not just a book about lost love. It is about all the wonderful everyday things Harold discovers through the mere process of putting one foot in front of the other. . . . it is very much a story of present-day courage. She writes about how easily a mousy, domesticated man can get lost and how joyously he can be refound.” —The New York Times“Joyce’s beguiling debut is another modest-seeming story of ‘ordinary’ English lives that enthralls and moves you as it unfolds.” —People Magazine (four stars) “. . . [a] gorgeously poignant novel of hope and transformation.” —O, the Oprah Magazine “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is not just a book about lost love.  It is about all the wonderful everyday things Harold discovers through the mere process of putting one foot in front of the other.” —The New York Times“It’s a deceptively simple novel about the anguish of regret, the importance of faith, and the redemptive power of love. . . . [Harold’s] story is humorous, moving and profound—one of those you keep thinking about weeks after you’ve finished it. . . . I promise it’s one of the best books you’ll read this year.” —Daily Mail (UK) “When it seems almost too late, Harold Fry opens his battered heart and lets the world rush in. This funny, poignant story about an ordinary man on an extraordinary journey moved and inspired me.” —Nancy Horan, author of Loving Frank “There’s tremendous heart in this debut novel by Rachel Joyce, as she probes questions that are as simple as they are profound: Can we begin to live again, and live truly, as ourselves, even in middle age, when all seems ruined? Can we believe in hope when hope seems to have abandoned us? I found myself laughing through tears, rooting for Harold every step of his journey. I’m still rooting for him.” —Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry isn’t just a book I enjoyed reading, it’s a book I feel lucky to have read. It takes the most ordinary and unassuming of men and turns him into a hero for us all. Harold Fry faces the same questions we all do as we age, questions about the meaning of our lives, faith and love, but confronts them in a most surprising way. To go on this journey with him will not only break your heart, it might also just heal it.” —Tiffany Baker, New York Times bestselling author of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County “The odyssey of a simple man. Original, subtle and touching.” —Claire Tomalin, author of Charles Dickens: A Life“A delightful story of faith, hope and redemption. Harold encounters human nature in all its guises, becomes a minor celebrity, learns to manage with few possessions and takes pleasure in the smallest of things. It's funny and touching, a celebration of life and a reminder that it's never too late to change.” —The New Zealand Herald “ . . . Joyce captures Harold’s emotions with a tidiness of words that is at times thrilling. It’s a trip worth taking.” —Maclean’s “Life-affirming delight. A comic pleasure.”— Woman & Home  “A tender, funny debut about second chances and regained love as a man takes to the road on an unusual quest.”— Marie Claire“Tender and funny, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry shows that even our frailties can be uplifting and redemptive.” —Edward Stourton“A wonderful book . . . Full of sadness, hope, and ultimately love. I found it very moving.” —Esther Freud “[A] charming début . . . Deeply affecting.” —The Bookseller “While [Joyce] handles her material with deceptive lightness, Harold’s journey towards a better version of himself is totemic. To read about him is to be moved to follow him.” —The Telegraph (UK)“ . . . Joyce captures Harold’s emotions with a tidiness of words that is at times thrilling. It’s a trip worth taking.” —Maclean’s “Rachel Joyce’s first novel—about a retired Englishman shuffling off to visit a dying colleague—sounds twee, but it’s surprisingly steely, even inspiring, the kind of quirky book you want to shepherd into just the right hands. . . . For all her merciless insistence on the brutality of illness, she has a lovely sense of the possibilities of redemption. In this bravely unpretentious and unsentimental tale, she’s cleared space where miracles are still possible.” —The Washington Post"Oh to be a pilgrim in yachting shoes and waxed cotton jacket, fueled only by a microwaved burger from a roadside garage and a sudden burning need to save a dying friend. Harold Fry is infuriating, hilarious and completely out of his depth, but I held my breath at his every blister and cramp and felt, as if by turning the pages, I might help his impossible quest succeed. Marvelous!" —Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand