My day three choice is The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce …
… the story of a lonely man who does something incredible and completely out of character and in doing so, finds a way to accept and forgive himself.
Full disclosure. I love a good journey book. By that I don’t necessarily mean a physical journey – more, the kind of internal journey in which the protagonist comes out the other side having learned something about themselves. In fact my draft debut novel, The Three Things That Broke Netta Wilde, follows exactly that theme.
There are other books I could have chosen from – Joyce’s second novel in this series, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, or Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I have read and loved both, but Harold is my favourite. I love the way he gradually opens up, like the flowers that he begins to notice on his long, lonely walk. It feels as though I’m walking with him and experiencing his highs and lows – both physical and mental.
The other thing that captivates me about this book is that Harold is not alone in his loneliness. First, there’s his wife, Maureen, so debilitated by grief that every day is a struggle for her to do anything other than function. Then there’s neighbour Rex and so many characters Harold meets along the way each of which are dealing with their own version of loneliness. And all the time, Queenie is waiting for him at the other end of the country. It’s a wonderful, sad, funny read. Try it, if you haven’t already done so.