At 65, Harold Fry is a quiet, solitary old man, retired from the brewery where he worked much of his adult life. Although he married Maureen – his one and only love – decades later, their days, weeks, years together are rather lonely and withdrawn. He doesn’t talk to or about their son David. And then “[t]he letter that would change everything arrived on a Tuesday.”
From the other end of the British Isle, Queenie Hennessy is writing to say goodbye … she’s dying of cancer. Harold hasn’t heard from her in 20 years, but their briefly shared past is enough to elicit the strongest emotions he’s had in a very long time. He writes Queenie a quick response – “Dear Queenie, Thank you for your letter. I am very sorry.
Yours Best wishes—Harold (Fry)” – and walks down the hill towards the nearest postbox, but keeps walking. And walking … and walking, determined that somehow his walking will keep Queenie alive if he can just deliver himself.
Harold Fry’s “unlikely pilgrimage” will take him 627 miles from Kingsbridge in southwest England to Berwick-upon-Tweed on the Scottish border. What happens during his 87 days on the road is a revelatory, eloquent, transforming experience … and one that needs to be personally discovered for every reader. The less you know, the better your read.
I hit ‘play’ knowing only two things: 1. I recognized the title from countless awards and best-of lists; and 2. the phenomenal Jim Broadbent narrates. The one other pre-reading tidbit I highly recommend (no worries, no spoilers) is debut (!!!) novelist Rachel Joyce‘s essay on “Writing Harold Fry,” about the story’s pre-book incarnation as an award-winning radio play she wrote for her dying father. Her official bio mentions she’s written over 20 “original afternoon plays.” Here’s hoping more of that prodigious output transfers to the printed page (or stuck in my ears!).