Had this novel not been a selection for a book club I belong to, I may not have purchased it. If I had picked it up by my own volition, I probably wouldn’t have continued reading after the first few chapters. Initially, I found The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry boring and depressing.
Harold is a man in his 60s, settling into retirement after a lackluster career in sales. His wife is a career homemaker and domestic martyr who seems to resent having him around. One morning he receives a letter from an old friend, reaching out to him in her final stages of a terminal illness. Harold responded to her note, but on a whim decided it just wasn’t enough. He then set out on a bizarre journey across England on foot, to make amends with his dying friend.
At first, it reminded me of that movie with Jack Nicholson where he retires, his wife dies suddenly, and he drives around in his RV looking back on his life with bitter regret. This isn’t Harold Fry’s story exactly, but it starts off with that vibe. The novel does pick up some momentum, but then it takes a Forest Gumpy detour before getting back to the sad. It’s a downer, but it’s a pleasant read overall. It wasn’t life altering, but it was thought provoking. Stories like this are always a good reminder about importance of taking responsibility for your actions, nurturing your relationships, and confronting your inner demons before they overcome you – because your past is never as far behind you as you might think.