Monday, December 31, 2012

“The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce – A Spiritual Awakening

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (Book cover)
Harold Fry is a man who lives life as a routine; every day, he goes through the exact same procedures, having become somewhat of a robot, at least physically. What’s worse, his wife simply cannot stand him, hating the way he does literally everything, from talking to tying his shoe laces.

On a day which was supposed to be exactly like every other one, Harold receives a very surprising letter from a woman he has last encountered over twenty years ago. That woman is lying close to death, and the letter is her final goodbye. Inexplicably unfazed by this turn of events, Harold hastily writes a reply and goes to deposit it into his mailbox.

However, as novels like this usually have it, Harold makes an encounter on his short journey to the mailbox, one which convinces him that he has to deliver this letter in person, and so he sets out on a pilgrimage across the countryside, a trip during which he makes many strange encounters which remind him of the meaning of being alive.

While the question as to what makes us human and unique is still up for debate, there is no doubt that, for us at least, everything we live through ends up becoming nothing more than a memory. The longer you live, the more memories you have, and after a certain point, these memories lose meaning, and so does your life, which is what happened in Harold’s case. He retired from his job and has pretty much nothing but long and tedious repetition to look forward to, and now his life has become one big, grey, blurry mess.

However, the pilgrimage he goes on and the encounters he makes while on it change everything. Not only does he learn new truths about himself and life in general, but he also starts to appreciate what little he remembers of his life, including his first dance with Maureen, the joy of having a child, his first kiss, his wedding, and of course, much more.

All in all, while The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce isn't your typical novel, it sure succeeds in delivering a heartwarming story that will ultimately make you question and analyze your own life. Or more precisely, it will make you nostalgic for all the good times and more or less indifferent to all the bad ones.

Once you realize that your life really is a collection of memories, you’ll be much more inclined to cherish the good ones and shrug your shoulders at the bad ones. This book is definitely worth a read, especially if you are into calmer and more introspective stories.

Rachel Joyce

Personal site

Rachel Joyce is a British author who has, until recently, been spending most of her time writing plays for BBC Radio Four, having been awarded the 2007 Tinniswood Award from To Be a Pilgrim. Her debut novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, for which she was awarded the New Writer of the Year by National Book Awards.

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