Harold Fry, a meek, retired man with a not-so-loving wife receives a letter from an old friend one day telling him that she is dying. He writes up a response and heads out to the corner mailbox to send it off. Upon reaching the mailbox moments later, he realizes that this is not a sufficient response for a dear friend so he keeps walking to the next corner, and then the following one after that. Before he knows it, Harold has embarked on a journey to walk across the country to his friend, in the hopes – and faith – that his walk will keep her alive if she waits for him to get there. The cast of characters he meets along the way leaves a mark with Harold as he continues walking along, pushing through even when it gets tough.
A simple task with a simple premise makes for a moving and profound story. The journey that Harold goes on is not only a literal one but also a mental and metaphorical one. He comes to discover, and rediscover much of what he felt he had lost with his loveless marriage. While Harold is walking from the South of England to the North, his wife finds that her hardened shell is softening as she realizes how much she misses the husband that she has antagonized for so many years of their marriage.
There were many poignant moments where Harold meets others with their own sets of woes and worries, and finds strength and motivation from them to keep going. Each with their own problems but also an inspirational spirit about them, many showing their kindness towards an older man on a bizarre trek. I also enjoyed the role that the media played in this story. It’s an interesting statement at how the media influence can affect individuals.
For most of the book, I imagined it to be set in an earlier time and if it were not for the mentions of mobile phones and tweeting, this could be a story that withstands the test of time. I don’t necessarily think that it detracts from the story at all, but it might seem dated years down the road when technology and social media trends have moved on.