The thing I like the most about this book was its distinct British-ness. Harold Fry, the quintessential English gentleman, is defined by his manners and his unobtrusiveness. But when he receives a letter from his dying former colleague Queenie, something inside him shifts, and he is motivated to walk the length of England to see her. Queenie herself is a bit of an enigma, but throughout the narrative, she is a beacon. As Harold walks, he ruminates over his life, his estranged marriage, his absentee son, and the parents who never wanted him. His journey is also an evolution, as he learns to engage strangers despite their strangeness and to rely on nature and the kindness of others. His progress is marked as Harold’s confidence surges and falters. At one point he picks up media attention and entourage (much like Forrest Gump), and these misguided pilgrims force another change in Harold’s determination.
It isn’t until he is about to give up sixteen miles from his goal that the profound revelations that have driven the entire plot are disclosed. The way Harold sheds the weight of guilt and the shame of how he has lived his life is significant and moving. It was so worth taking the journey with him for the eloquent finality of the conclusion. The writing is beautiful (and did I mention oh-so-British?) and fraught with emotion, but satisfying in its simplicity and directness. I really enjoyed getting to know Harold and his wife and the many intricacies of their situation.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.