by Rachel Joyce
Read by: Jim Broadbent
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Content: There are a couple of characters with foul mouths and swear quite a bit (including multiple f-bombs), but that’s it. It’s also a book about aging, life, death, and marriage, so I’m not sure how interested younger people would be in it. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.
I don’t really know what inspired me to pick this one up; I suppose it’s because I’ve heard a lot about it over the months it’s been out, but I guess I needed a journey story, because this one hit home,
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. So, 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 Kingsbrige to were Queenie is in Berwick-Upon-Tweed, perhaps she will live.
What Harold didn’t count on was how much his walk would 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 did get a bit meandering in the middle, but I was so enthralled with Broadbent’s narration, I didn’t mind. He was spot-on with all the characters, from the Scottish nuns in the hospice to Maureen’s irritation, to the 70-something next door neighbor, Rex, who turns out to be a gem.
I loved it.