I should start by saying that yes, I did read Harold Fry’s story first, and of course, I loved it. I’m not sure I would have picked this one if I hadn’t, but I need to start with that. I missed all the hoopla when The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry came out, so when I saw this one offered on NetGalley I jumped to read it. I had good intentions to start it right away, but it was in the middle of a very large to-read pile and it took a while for me to get there.
This book answered so many questions I had about Harold’s story, particularly, what sort of woman could convince a long-married man to trek across England with just a simple note? Rachel Joyce answers that, and so many other questions I never even realized I had, and I almost think I liked this book more than the first one. Perhaps it is because Queenie’s story has so much more meaning knowing his, I don’t know. Reading this, I was reminded of the book Wicked, which added a completely new dimension to The Wizard of Oz, a revelatory backstory that made you rethink your ideas about each of those beloved characters. In a similar manner, Joyce adds entirely new information, some merely hinted at in the previous novel, and other parts wholly new.
I loved Queenie Hennessy, but I didn’t always like her in this book. She was naive in so many ways, particularly when it came to Harold’s son, David. But sometimes, even more than Harold and Queenie, I loved the inhabitants of the hospice, and the many ways they brought Harold’s walk into their lives. This is a beautiful, sad, wonderful story, and the perfect companion to Harold’s journey.