2012 Man Booker Prize: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce

‘Tell her Harold Fry is on his way. All she has to do is wait. Because I am going to save her, you see. I will keep walking and she must keep living. Will you say that?’
The voice said she would. Was there anything else? Did he know visiting hours, for instance? Parking restrictions?
He insisted, ‘I’m not in a car. I want her to live.’
‘I’m sorry. Did you say something about your car?’
‘I’m coming by foot. From South Devon all the way up to Berwick-upon-Tweed.’
The voice gave an exasperated sigh. ‘It’s a terrible line. What are you doing?’
‘I’m walking,’ he shouted.
‘I see,’ said the voice slowly, as if the woman had picked up a pen and was jotting this down. ‘Walking. I’ll tell her. Should I say anything else?’
‘I’m setting off right now. As long as I walk, she must live. Please tell her this time I won’t let her down.’

A 65-year old not so happy retiree embarking on the biggest spontaneous adventure of his entire quiet and not so happy life.
It’s like Straight Story, without the John Deere tractor. Or Emilio Estevez’s The Way, with English towns and countryside replacing Camino de Santiago. A modern-day geriatric ‘there and back again’ mixed with Forest Gump; with lots and lots of flashbacks and remembrances. With lots of painful memories and secrets. Extraordinary for Harold Fry, but not exactly that unlikely for us.
It is a simple and melancholic story that has been told again and again by many writers in many different ways. But it will charm you. You’ll find yourself tagged along in Harold’s journey, wanting to know what exactly his secrets are–tugged neatly near the ending, as expected–although they’re not at all surprising or that hard to guess. It’s not about discovering some great mysteries. It’s about important things we have always known. But, like Harold Fry, we just have to be reminded and find it once again.

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