The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce


It seems I'm building up quite a library of books about the importance of putting one foot in front of the other (see "books in which walking is featured prominently": Open City (Teju Cole), On Top of the World (Luree Miller), Wild (Cheryl Strayed), The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K. Le Guin), and The Wandering Falcon (Jamil Ahmad), to name just a few). 

A guilty admission: I was primarily interested in this book because the protagonist's last name is nearly the same as my own, and another major character shares my grandmother's maiden name, which seemed a delightful coincidence.

Anyhow, this is a pleasant enough read, and the emphasis on small, human connections was lovely. "It must be the same all over England," Harold, the pilgrim narrator, says. "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. The inhuman effort it took sometimes to be normal, and a part of things that appeared both easy and everyday. The loneliness of that."

Although the loneliness is palpable, it is not all consuming; you must still glory in the little goodnesses, "tender for the strangeness of others." When Harold reaches his destination, the bedside of a dying friend he has not seen in 20 years, he is not heralded with applause. Still, even when things don't turn out as we want them to, the journey changes us for the better.