I've not done very well with this plan at all, the only book I've managed to knock off my TBR pile by reading the audio version being Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. This is mainly because I quickly came to realize that finding new and popular books at the library is much easier if you're willing to read the audiobook version. There's hardly any wait at all!
And so, rather than decreasing my TBR pile, I've read many books that were on my radar but not very high on my radar, and I've enjoyed almost all of them. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is no exception. It's one that several of my favorite bloggers have really enjoyed, and it appealed to me because I find myself really enjoying novels now with elderly people as the protagonists. Harold Fry is in his mid-sixties, newly retired, with a wife, Maureen, whom he hardly speaks to, living in a neighborhood he's rarely left. One day he gets a letter from a former colleague, Queenie, telling him that she is dying of cancer. Impulsively, Harold decides that he is going to go to Queenie, and that he will walk hundreds of miles to get there, in the hopes that his faith in her will keep her alive.
Often with stories like this, great bursts of faith and stubbornness, the protagonist is a child - think The Parent Trap and others of that nature. It's rare that you find an adult who is willing to bet everything on a leap of faith, and I loved Rachel Joyce for writing a story that shows idealism and belief and trust to an older audience.
This book is about so many things, shared with the reader in so many quiet, lovely ways. I loved the way Joyce alternated the narrators - first Harold, and then his wife, Maureen. It was wonderful to get to know each of them separately, and then see them together. Both characters came such a long way in the story and faced up to so many of their own mistakes and fears and griefs, but they did it in such a brave way. I can't quote from the book because I listened to it on audio, but Maureen says once that she never thought she'd be such a mess at 63, that she thought her life would be simple and steady. And that really hit me - I'm sure part of it is because I myself am getting older, but it's so much easier now for me to see the way people really are, to see that they, too, have regrets and sadnesses and disappointments in their lives, even if my interactions with them do not specifically deal with those issues. Joyce did an excellent job of bringing that to life.
I also really enjoyed the many other characters in this book. Maureen tentatively becomes friends with her neighbor, Rex, who becomes a wonderful source of support to her only after she reaches out to him - it makes you wonder, could your next-door neighbor be your new best friend if you'd only make the effort and take the risk of reaching out just a little bit further? And all the people that Harold met on his travels - I enjoyed all of these encounters because Joyce showed just how lonely and sad people can feel, and just how much difference a little kindness can make. The characters weren't perfect, but Joyce points out that all of them were on journeys of their own, struggling to overcome their own deficiencies and memories and hoping to come out on the other side better than they were before. And it is fitting that the bravest acts that Harold and Maureen did in this story was try once again to open up to each other.
This book isn't perfect - sometimes, I thought it was too long and that there was too much repetition. I particularly didn't like the part in which Harold was joined by a big group of pilgrims who kept using him for marketing and PR stunts. But, luckily, that was not a major part of the story, and the ending was so well-written, I was willing to forgive all of that. This was truly a lovely book about facing your fears and making connections.
I have heard so much about this book and will find time to read it. Nice review.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Harvee - it is a heart-warmer, so it's a good season for it :-)Delete
This easily makes my best read of 2012 list, whenever I put that together. I was hooked within the first few pages and fell madly in love with Harold and was surprised I would feel equally the same for Maureen. What a beautiful novel and I'm so glad I read this one this year. I'm so glad you enjoyed it as well!ReplyDelete
I was surprised by how much I loved Maureen, too, especially as she seemed so harsh in the first chapter. But it was such a lovely and poignant book about finding people again.Delete
I loved this one a lot. I thought the writing was fabulous and the way Joyce brought out the emotions and feelings of the characters was great. Glad that you liked it too.ReplyDelete
I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I thought it was a beautiful and moving story and it's one of my favourites for 2012, too.ReplyDelete
I am terrible at accomplishing goals I set for myself regarding the library too. (Mostly I tell myself no more than ten books, which . . . yeah.)ReplyDelete
Somehow, I never realized this one was about an elderly man.
Same as Liviania, I didn't know this was about older characters. I suppose the name should have given it away! Intriguing plot, and yes, brave, especially if the cane on the cover reflects the actual character. The marketing aspect reminds of a film I watched on a similar walking theme - once the radio station, in the film, found out, it wasn't as good.ReplyDelete
Yes, I make lists with plans and half the time go off in different directions, too... Like listening to audiobooks period!ReplyDelete
This sounds sweet. As much as I know audiobooks would add value to my life, I've never been able to get into them. I love having human people read out loud to me in person, but audiobooks not really so much. :/ (The exception being Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter. I could listen to that all day. But I already know those books very, very well.)ReplyDelete
It was a sweet book, wasn't it? Personally, I'm not a huge fan of books where the characters dwell on all the mistakes they've made in life, but I thought it was really sweet the way this book was set up. :)ReplyDelete
So glad you enjoyed it. This is one that I read and listened too-- a combo I find myself enjoying. I can read for awhile, and then pick up the audio in the car or the pool (with my waterproof MP3 armband) so I don't feel glued to the reading chair.ReplyDelete
Harold is a book that really grew on me.
I really loved this one and it spoke to me at a time when I needed to hear the message in this one. I'm glad you enjoyed it as well. You are right, it isn't perfect but it was perfectly lovely!ReplyDelete