40. Help Me Interview “Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” Author Rachel Joyce

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Join us for a conversation with author Rachel Joyce for Barrington Reads - February 23, 2014

When the Barrington Area Library asked me last fall if I would interview the author of this year’s fiction selection for their annual Barrington Reads community reading campaign, I was honored for the opportunity and then immediately felt nervous.  I interview people every day for the stories we share here at 365Barrington.com, but this one’s different because this interview will have an audience.  All are invited to attend as we talk to Rachel Joyce via Skype about her award-winning first novel and international best seller, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. It’s happening in Barrington High School’s Guidance Resource Center at 1 p.m. on Sunday, February 23rd and  I’m excited to be part of the interview because it’s a beautiful book about a man who receives a life changing letter.

Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry Author, Rachel Joyce
Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry Author, Rachel Joyce

At the beginning of the book, the main character, Harold Fry, receives an unexpected letter which triggers an unplanned journey.

Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryThe letter is brief, but stirs something within Harold that motivates him to walk 627 miles across England so he can repair his relationship with the person who wrote him the message, face-to-face, before she dies.

Along the way, Harold experiences the healing power of new friendships, cathartic reflection and a breathtaking landscape filled with small wonders and wide open spaces.  He encounters a cast of characters who offer support, trigger memories and motivate him to continue in his quest to reach his ultimate destination.

I truly loved this book because it touches on emotions and struggles experienced at all stages of life. It holds a powerful message about the lasting impact of our words and choices.  It speaks to the guilt and pain that accompany blame, regret, feelings of inadequacy and decisions that distance us from those with whom we are closest. The whole story is shaped by a deadline that brings to light the finite nature of opportunities we have to repair relationships and change the course of our lives.

But these are just a few of the things that struck me while reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.  I’d love to know your thoughts about the book.

In these two weeks leading up to our interview with Rachel Joyce, we’ll be discussing the book in a series of posts here at 365Barrington.com.  Our goal is that you will help us come up with a list of questions you would most like author Rachel Joyce to answer.  If we each read or revisit two or three chapters a night between now and our interview at 1 p.m. on Sunday, February 23rd, we can read the book together and come up with a list of questions you would most like to ask Rachel Joyce.

Throughout the next two weeks, we’ll be collecting and sharing your thoughts and questions about the book here at 365Barrington.com and we’ll cover the following chapters on these upcoming dates:

Tuesday, February 11th – Chapters 1 through 10
Saturday, February 15th – Chapters 11 through 20
Tuesday, February 18th – Chapters 21 through 26
Saturday, February 22nd – Chapters 27 through 32

Anyone who participates in our discussion by sharing comments about the book will also be entered into a drawing for a chance to win prizes in a new contest we’ve cooked up here at 365Barrington.com.  It’s called our “Tools for an Unlikely Pilgrimage” Contest and we’re been lining up prizes that are somehow inspired by the book.  The first of several prizes will be a new pair of shoes from Barrington Running Co, courtesy of owners Mark and Leanne Konicek, so you can start your own personal pilgrimage – if only on the streets here in Barrington.  How cool is that?!?

Join our "Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" conversation for a chance to win prizes
Join our “Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” conversation for a chance to win prizes

We’re kicking off contest off today so let’s get started!  If you have already read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, here’s our first contest challenge.

In the comments box below, tell us what you think Harold learned during his Unlikely Pilgrimage that changed his life for the better.

We’ll share some of your thoughts and, with the help of our local librarians, we’ll pose a new contest challenge question about chapters 1 through 10 this upcoming Tuesday, February 11th, right here at 365Barrington.com.

(CLICK HERE to Register)

Thank you, Barrington Area Library, Barrington 220 Educational Foundation, Barrington 220 School District and the Barrington PTO Presidents’ Council for hosting the 2014 Barrington Reads campaign and inspiring us to read this beautiful book together!

For a list of other upcoming events scheduled during the month of February inspired by The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, you’ll find the full Barrington Reads schedule on the library’s website at BALibrary.org.

Barrington Community Reading Campaign - February, 2014
Barrington Community Reading Campaign – February, 2014


  1. My overall sense is that Harold learns that he is not alone in feeling flawed, lonely, and often not up to the task of being truly alive. On every step of his journey, he encounters people who are also burdened by past and/or present – lovers who walked away, secret lives they can’t reveal to most people, illnesses, attempts at suicide, substance abuse, pride and arrogance that keep them from really connecting with people. He learns that the most extraordinary and difficult moments in his life were exactly the times when he was most human, and that he should feel a sense of joy in having survived and come as far as he has, rather than wallowing in shame or failure. He also learns that it’s never too late to start fresh, to try again, to make up for the weaknesses of the past.

  2. As Karen so eloquently said, I think Harold learns a lot about himself. By the end of the book, you really get the feeling that he is beginning to realize how what he does makes a difference (for better or for worse) in the world. He also learns that every day is a new day, and that it’s never too late to try to fix old mistakes and change things about himself that he thinks he should.
    I think that one of the loveliest parts of the book deal with Harold’s relationship with his wife. At the beginning, they’re so distant from each other. Without giving too much away, it’s fair to say that by the end, the two of them have an understanding and tenderness for each other that they haven’t had in many years. That deep awareness of another person is a huge change for Harold, who has always been a bit detached from the world.

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