Harold Fry is 65 years old and has just retired from 45 years as a salesman at a local brewery. He doesn’t have much to do, and he and his wife, Maureen, haven’t had much of a marriage in 20 years. So mostly he just sits around. When he gets a letter from Queenie Hennessy, a colleague he hasn’t seen in 20 years, that she’s dying of cancer, he sets out to mail a letter back to her. And then just keeps walking.
A girl in a garage inspires Harold: perhaps if he walks the 600 miles from his home in Kingsbridge to where Queenie is in Berwick-Upon-Tweed, perhaps she will live.
What Harold doesn’t count on is how much his walk will change his life.
I completely empathized with all the characters in the book. Sometimes, Harold struck home, with his need to do something to feel productive. Sometimes, it was Maureen, with her frustrations about the stagnation of their marriage — though there’s more to that story, which is slowly revealed over the course of the book. And it was a testament to the kindness of strangers. Harold started out spending money and staying at hotels, but over the course of the 87 days he walked, he increasingly became more dependent on other people. And they didn’t disappoint; sure, there are unkind people, but Joyce seems to be affirming that most people in this world are decent. It was meandering in the middle section and did drag a bit. But that wasn’t enough to derail the story for me.
I loved it.
Rated: Moderate, for language: a couple of characters Harold interacts with periodically who have foul mouths and swear quite a bit (including multiple f-bombs).