Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Books I'm Carrying Around: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When facing inescapable tragedy or disappointment, it must be in our human nature to make non-sensical deals with fate.  "If my football team wins, then the doctor's report will be good."  "If I walk backwards, my house won't be flooded when I get there."  Right?

"If someone could please let her know I'm on my way, then she won't die, she'll wait for me."  This was Harold Fry's deal.  Even though "on my way" was a couple hundred miles on foot from one end of England to the other, he kept on going.  Because once you've told someone you're coming to see them on their dying bed and then you get a couple weeks and hundred miles in, can you really quit until you get to the end and find out if they did wait for you or not?

Harold's pilgrimage is a physical one.  I've done charity walks of 60 miles and I was shaking my head with sympathy as he discovered the pain of the wrong shoes and muscle aches, the frustration and chill of rain, and the mental fluctuation between boredom and thoughtfulness.

But his pilgrimage is also a spiritual and emotional one, and this is really the heart of the book.  Page my page, mile by mile, we learn about the unraveling of his marriage, his disappointments and mistakes as a father, his discovery of what he now wants in his life.  Along the way, we also get insight into his wife, left behind at home, waiting for his phone calls and postcards as he makes his journey.  And we find out why a man would walk so far to see a woman who is not his wife.

I went from sympathetic to exhausted, interested to ready to quit, just as Harold did.  But once you get so many pages in, even with blisters and pouring rain, you've got to make it to the end.  

*Personal tip - if you are ever planning on walking a very long distance - Vaseline, baby powder, good socks, and excellent walking shoes.

Note - I received a copy of this book from the Random House Reader's Circle.

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