The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

“Harold never believed he was worthy- as a son, as a dad, as a husband, as a friend- especially to Queenie Hennessy. Harold’s change begins when he decided to walk, but his true change begins when he realizes that he was ‘walking to atone for the mistakes he had made, and it was also his journey to accept the strangeness of others.’ People would feel free to talk and he was free to listen…’to carry a little of them as he went.’  Harold also learned he needed almost nothing to continue his journey and that he could depend on the kindness of others.  At the end, I am dismayed that he lost so much of himself- but that is also what a pilgrimage is about – losing yourself.  Maureen’s journey is just as important and Rex is a big part of her journey.  She must finally lose David to gain Harold and that is the wonderful part of her journey.  Laughter is healing and I am so glad that the healing belly laughs that end the book.”

“At the beginning of his journey, Harold was ‘lost.’  He was searching for answers and meaning.  He was looking back over his life and searching for worth, meaning and purpose for himself. Through his journey he gains understanding and is able to gain some peace for the past.  Each person he meets along the way shows him something unique that gives him understanding and truth.  ‘Pilgimage’ is ‘any long journey, especially one undertaken as a quest.’  Harold’s walk may have started as a simple walk, wandering without much purpose, but as he continues on it becomes clear that the walk is a quest.  It is a quest for understanding, forgiveness, meaning and redemption.  Harold’s journey is a pilgrimage in that he is seeking a sacred place with Queening- understanding and a sense of closure.”

One of the things that I found so interesting about this book is that Harold’s pilgrimage can be seen as a metaphor for faith.  Initially, Harold has lost his faith and for a long time we don’t even know why.  ‘Faith’ in this case refers to religion, belief in other people’s goodness, and belief in himself.  Harold starts out to recapture his faith with no previous planning.  Along the way he is constantly challenged OR supported, by people’s attitudes, by the weather, by Maureen’s slow change of heart.  He picks up adherents and then loses them.  Many of them change the point of his walk to suit their own needs.  Does this sound like our world religions or what??  I loved the way the author captured the various facets of human behavior, especially her portrayal of how we can get off track of what matters to us, but then return to it.”