I just finished reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. It took me more than a few weeks to finish it because there were just too many academic things that needed to be read, but this weekend, I put all of those aside for a couple of hours and drove to the end.
I really enjoyed this book. I wouldn’t say that I could identify very well with the main characters, Harold and Maureen. they just seem a little bit too simple. Their understanding of their own lives, revealed in bits and pieces, leave you feeling they are just missing something. Their reflection on themselves seems too shallow, there is very little fight in it.
What I did identify with was the aspect of pilgrimage that Joyce describes. The leaving, the self-reflection, the sore feet, the folks met on the way, the relationships that come and go on the road, all rang true to my experience of pilgrimage on the Camino in the spring of 2011. It was fun to read, feeling the author had gotten it right, hit the nail on the head. Harold is an unlikely pilgrim, but aren’t we all?
When Harold sets out on his journey, he carries with him a vision of what the pilgrimage will accomplish, but in the end he finds the goal he had intended is all wrong and a whole other result is realized. Pilgrimage, as we have witnessed, begins with a goal, a vision, which, very often, is unrealized, or, if it is realized, turns out to be insignificant in the end. The relationships built, and the self realizations that come on the way, become the important results of the journey. Harold recognized this and so did we.
The book is a wonderful read and a recognition that maybe we don’t have to head to the great pilgrimage sites of the world to experience something new in our lives. Maybe its right here. Maybe even part of the journey we are on right now.