The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
A Novel

84%

33 Critic Reviews

In between Ms. Joyce’s book loosely parallels “The Pilgrim’s Progress” at times, but 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.
-NY Times

Synopsis

Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack of quotidian minutiae is a letter addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn’t seen or heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye.
 
Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, heads to the corner mailbox. But then, as happens in the very best works of fiction, Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. And thus begins the unlikely pilgrimage at the heart of Rachel Joyce’s remarkable debut. Harold Fry is determined to walk six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed because, he believes, as long as he walks, Queenie Hennessey will live.
 
Still in his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold embarks on his urgent quest across the countryside. Along the way he meets one fascinating character after another, each of whom unlocks his long-dormant spirit and sense of promise. Memories of his first dance with Maureen, his wedding day, his joy in fatherhood, come rushing back to him—allowing him to also reconcile the losses and the regrets. As for Maureen, she finds herself missing Harold for the first time in years.
 
And then there is the unfinished business with Queenie Hennessy.
 
A novel of unsentimental charm, humor, and profound insight into the thoughts and feelings we all bury deep within our hearts, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry introduces Rachel Joyce as a wise—and utterly irresistible—storyteller.

 

About Rachel Joyce

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Rachel Joyce is an award-winning writer of more than twenty plays for BBC Radio 4. She started writing after a twenty-year acting career, in which she performed leading roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and won multiple awards. Rachel Joyce lives in Gloucestershire on a farm with her family and is at work on her second novel.
 
Published July 24, 2012 by Random House. 338 pages
Genres: Humor & Entertainment, Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Feb 08 2015
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
All: 33 | Positive: 28 | Negative: 5

Kirkus

Above average
on Apr 30 2012

Manipulative but moving, for readers who don’t mind having their strings pulled.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on Jul 29 2012

In between Ms. Joyce’s book loosely parallels “The Pilgrim’s Progress” at times, but 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.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Natasha Tripney on Jan 05 2013

A low note of hope threads through the writing, building slowly, and the small details as much as the grand narrative delight and move...

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Alfred Hickling on Apr 06 2012

Joyce's novel is prone to sentimentality, while the overpoweringly good intentions of its hero can seem a little pious...

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Publishers Weekly

Below average
on Apr 30 2012

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.”

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Blog Critics

Excellent
Reviewed by Derek Emerson on Sep 30 2012

Joyce has a keen eye for the public and excels as she creates a cast of characters who are all too realistic next to Harold's quasi-spiritual pilgrimage.

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NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by Norman Powers on Jul 24 2012

Ms. Joyce...writes flowing, graceful prose...

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Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by LAURIE HERTZEL on Jul 21 2012

It will stick with you, this story of faith, fidelity and redemption.

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Book Reporter

Excellent
Reviewed by Roz Shea on Jul 26 2012

Rachel Joyce is an award-winning playwright for BBC Radio 4, and her flawless narrative and dialogue crackle with authenticity and vitality.

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Globe and Mail

Above average
Reviewed by Donna Bailey Nurse on Aug 03 2012

...The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a decidedly spiritual work. It’s about a man who struggles to survive the appalling injuries of his youth...

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AV Club

Excellent
Reviewed by Samantha Nelson on Aug 20 2012

Joyce artfully crafts a finale that’s simultaneously tragic and uplifting, a perfect ending to the fulfilling journey on which she leads her readers.

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Entertainment Weekly

Above average
Reviewed by Keith Staskiewicz on Aug 03 2012

Joyce's writing is lucid, and despite the plot's episodic nature, it's never plodding.

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The Washington Post

Good
Reviewed by Ron Charles on Jul 24 2012

...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.

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Christian Science Monitor

Above average
Reviewed by Yvonne Zipp on Feb 15 2013

From the blisters to the sudden downpours, Joyce makes a reader feel every step of her unassuming hero's journey.

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The Bookbag

Excellent
Reviewed by Ani Johnson on Mar 01 2012

It's a satirical look at celebrity, it's an encouragement to look at relationships and unpick the past's mistakes before they contaminate the present, it's a celebration of life. It's also one of the best three books I've ever read.

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USA Today

Excellent
Reviewed by Bob Minzesheimer on Jul 29 2012

I can't think of a better recommendation for summer reading. And take your time, just as Harold does.

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Washington Independent Review of Books

Excellent
Reviewed by Robert Swan on Feb 15 2013

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a wonderful book...in the case of Harold Fry, redemption comes in the form of a long walk we have the pleasure of taking with him.

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Express

Excellent
Reviewed by Jane Clinton on Mar 18 2012

I loved this touching and charming novel which made me laugh and sob.

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Denver Post

Below average
Reviewed by John Broening on Jul 22 2012

... this reviewer mentally checked out of the novel, probably about the time a stray dog begins to follow Harold's caravan...

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Macleans

Above average
Reviewed by Jen Cutts on Jul 06 2012

Joyce captures Harold’s emotions with a tidiness of words that is at times thrilling. It’s a trip worth taking.

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We Love This Book

Excellent
Reviewed by Alice O'Keeffe on Feb 15 2013

Deeply affecting, the story is also shot through with the comic lightness of a Paul Torday or Marina Lewycka novel. A fine debut with a screenplay-like concept.

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Bookmarks Magazine

Excellent
Reviewed by Jon on Jul 24 2012

A novel of unsentimental charm, humor, and profound insight into the thoughts and feelings we all bury deep within our hearts, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry introduces Rachel Joyce as a wise—and utterly irresistible—storyteller.

Read Full Review of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Ha...

Booklist Online

Excellent
Reviewed by Carol Haggas on Feb 15 2013

...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.

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The New Zealand Herald

Above average
Reviewed by Christine Sheehy on May 25 2012

This is no racy page turner but a gentle, charming story of the power of the human spirit.

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Curious Book Fans

Excellent
Reviewed by collingwood21 on Feb 11 2013

This is a beautifully written novel. The language is simple but used almost poetically, and I found it very moving in a way that I don’t often experience with books.

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BookDragon

Good
on Feb 02 2013

What happens during his 87 days on the road is a revelatory, eloquent, transforming experience … and one that needs to be personally discovered for every reader.

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The American Book Center Blog

Above average
Reviewed by Natalie Gerritsen on Feb 15 2013

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce isn’t a very surprising book and even the twist at the end of the book is a bit predictable...

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City View

Excellent
on Sep 28 2012

As you read about Harold’s epiphany, you will examine your own outlook on life. The message and experiences of Harold will stay with you for a long time to come.

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Dawn.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Mohsin Siddiqui on Oct 28 2012

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is whimsical without being twee; uplifting without being precious. That alone is unusual, but much of the novel’s delight comes from Joyce’s juxtaposition of idealism and reality.

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Newstalk 1010

Excellent
Reviewed by Justine Lewkowicz on Jul 27 2012

You’ll be rooting for Harold as you shake your head and smile at this quest of his. Rachel Joyce is an author to keep an eye on. She knows how to write a beautiful book!

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St. Cloud Visitor

Excellent
Reviewed by Ann Jonas on Feb 15 2013

What makes this book so exceptional is the beautiful and tender writing. There are moments in the book that are quite funny and delightful and parts that are poignant and heartrending.

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Book Oxygen

Excellent
Reviewed by Paul Sidey on Feb 15 2013

Rachel Joyce broadens her descriptions of the lonely, the lost, of the infinite complexities of a modern world. It is a book that grows with each new page. It made me weep.

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Herald Sun

Good
Reviewed by Corinna Hente on May 15 2012

Joyce's debut novel is a touching story of healing...

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Reader Rating for The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
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Terri McGinty 23 May 2013

Rated the book as 3 out of 5

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Rated the book as 4 out of 5

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