Come along on this journey through the length of England with a very unlikely hero, Harold Fry. It’s an uplifting story that at times is poignant, sometimes sad, but overall a positive reinforcement of the value of every human being. It also makes clear what we in journalism know (but maybe sometimes forget): every person has a story if we stop and listen.
A retiree in a small coastal village in the south of England, Harold Fry lives with his wife of many years, Maureen. The marriage has grown stale. Harold and Maureen don’t talk much and everything he does seems to irritate her. Harold seems to have no purpose in life, and Maureen’s purpose is to incessantly clean the house. It’s not an encouraging picture, but it’s one that is most likely played out in many households in England and in the U.S. After all, Thoreau wrote that the mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.
A shakeup comes to the Fry household in the form of a letter from Queenie Hennessy, a former co-worker of Harold’s whom he hasn’t heard from in 20 years. Queenie is in hospice care and writes to say goodbye. Harold writes a response, but something happens on his way to post the letter. A chance encounter with a girl in a garage convinces Harold that he must deliver his message to Queenie in person.
With no plan, no map and no cell phone, Harold just keeps walking, thinking maybe he’ll mail the letter in the next town…and then the next and so on. He’s wearing a tie and light jacket and his yachting shoes; ill equipped for the 500-mile journey to the north of England to see Queenie.
This charming story is about the people Harold encounters along the way; how they affect him and he affects them. Most of all, it’s a story about Harold re-discovering himself, and likewise for Maureen, and the hard truths each faces. Harold and Maureen seem changed, but maybe they’re simply looking at each other with a different perspective. They — like each of us — have buried thoughts, feelings, old hurts and a passel of emotions — deep in their hearts. To quote another philosopher, Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living.
» The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
By Rachel Joyce
Published by Random House
— Lynn Lofton, firstname.lastname@example.org
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