The silver-haired gentleman was in truth nothing like the man Harold imagined him to be. He was a chap like himself, with a unique pain; and yet there would be no knowing that if you passed him in the street, [...] It must be the same all over England. People were buying milk, or filling their cars with petrol, or even posting letters. And what no one else knew was the appalling weight of the thing they were carrying inside.
Six months retired, Harold Fry goes about his daily routine doing pretty much nothing. His wife, Maureen, spends her days cleaning the house, as if someone might walk in any day. On one such boring day, a letter comes in the mail from a Queenie Hennessy saying she is dying from cancer. Suddenly overwhelmed, Harold wants to write something in his reply but is unable to pen down more than a few words. Still, he decides to post his insignificant letter and walks out. But when he arrives at the mailbox, he feels that he has arrived too soon. So on he walks to the next mailbox and then to the next, until he impulsively decides to walk 600 miles to the north to visit Queenie.
Until I actually started reading this book, I went back and forth on whether I really felt like reading it. Most of the time, the synopsis intrigued me - how can one not want to read about a man who just steps out to post a letter but eventually ends up considering a journey of 600 miles on foot? Other times, I felt like it would be such a boring thing to do - follow a single character while all the people he met passed by without making any major impact on me. Boy, was I wrong on the last part!
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry starts almost slyly with no fanfare, mystery or intrigue. The first few chapters are all about Harold and his walk, so much so that Harold appears almost silly for even contemplating such an idea. Occasionally, there is a tease of something monumental, lurking around the corner of the pages, but it was still easy to miss the hints and carry on with Harold on his journey. The public interest in Harold's walk and the horde of groupies who follow Harold was an interesting satiric touch to the plot. Even though this interest culminated in an almost filmy climax, it was certainly something that mirrored the state of current affairs, with public interest waxing and waning with time.
I received this book for free for review from the publisher via TLC Book Tours.