My Rating: ∗∗∗/5

Recently my bookclub read The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, it got me thinking back about this book The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry I read last year. When I first began to read it, I thought that this would become one of the most memorable books I’ve ever read, because how could you forget a pilgrimage – a literal pilgrimage that was – of a 65-year-old man walking across England to see his friend for the last time? It did, but not in the way I was hoping it would, almost quite the opposite as a matter of fact.

At first, it got me thinking about my day job, I even started to update my resume hoping not to end up like Harold Fry, living to retirement without a moment enjoying his job. Everything he does glowing an aura of indifference around him. There is just something about how old people reminiscing their youth and their passion that is just so scary to continue to read. Everything you do daily seems so automatic, so robotic as if it’s the most natural thing you were programmed for, but what’s the point? The sadness and loneliness in daily tasks were described in such a way that it was hard not think about it when you do it.

“People were buying milk, or filling their cars with petrol, or even posting letters. And what no one else knew was the appalling weight of the thing they were carrying inside. The superhuman effort it took sometimes to be normal, and a part of things that appeared both easy and everyday. The loneliness of that.”

Then he started walking, for God knows whatever reason that until this day I still don’t know (or don’t remember), but I figure, there must be something more to it so I keep plowing through the book. Perhaps something good will happen, perhaps there will be more to the walk, to explain all the good quotes, to understand each human life living to the age of (about) 65 year old didn’t become so meaningless.

“He understood that in walking to atone for the mistakes he had made, it was also his journey to accept the strangeness of others.”

It didn’t. Nothing happened. Just a walk.

No. Actually, something happened. Other people, the groupie, the media, Queenie, etc.

I felt that the story did not need those people to be a good story. Reading too much of Haruki Murakami, I’m okay with stories that do not go anywhere at the end, but being an almost-misanthrope, I did not enjoy the addition of those other people. Perhaps it’s the climax of the story – a dose of reality and revealing the truth that we are all so unique that we are all the same. It took away the time of which I could know more about Harold. So there, instead, I had to read about the reality of how people (the goddamn groupie) like to follow the mass and the media, how they like to take others’ idea as their own and turned it into something so ordinary and so meaningless. At that point, it almost like I made up my mind not to like this book anymore, so I didn’t. And it went flat for me. And that was my dilemma of deciding how to rate this book, which makes it one of the most memorable books I’ve ever read.

“Harold walked with these strangers and listened. He judged no one, although as the day wore on, and time and places began to melt, he couldn’t remember if the tax inspector wore no shoes or had a parrot on his shoulder. It no longer mattered. He had learned that it was the smallness of people that filled him with wonder and tenderness, and the loneliness of that too. The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other; and a life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had been doing so for a long time. Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that this was the dilemma of being human.”

Photo Credit: Book stock photo (US edition)

Book information:
Man Booker Prize Nominee for Longlist (2012), Desmond Elliott Prize Nominee (2012), Japanese Booksellers Award Nominee for Translated Fiction (2014)
Published July 24th, 2012  by Random House
Hardcover, 320 pages
Author: Rachel Joyce