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09 May 2013

'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry' by Rachel Joyce

Harold has given me courage

I felt alternately worthless and great while turning pages.  I remembered personal acts of selfishness and especially resentments but I also remembered generous, selfless moments that occurred because that was my nature at that moment.  Like the blurbs on the cover of the book suggested, I did cry and I did laugh. Harold Fry, the protagonist, learnt to be kinder to himself and to have more faith in the world.  This book is about generosity, not material, though that plays a small role, but generosity of spirit; the kind of generosity that makes you take disinterested action, for the complete benefit of someone else.  It is also the sort of generosity that allows you to forgive others and to forgive yourself.

Selflessness, in this case a pilgrimage meant to save a life, will not stop wars and probably will not save the life.  But this intangible generosity has worth because Harold tried.  He decides to believe that he can save a life.  And he decides to believe that he must walk in order to save this life.  This belief coupled with this walk becomes a spiritual exercise, a pilgrimage.  I think Harold thought of it as an act of gratitude to an old friend not an act of giving, but Harold had not been ungrateful, just too ashamed of the need for the favor in the first place.  Nevertheless, he finds his way on the road north and on the road in himself.

Perspective allows me to forgive myself, if only a little, like Harold. I live a life of many regrets...I could have hugged her, I should have called, I should not have trusted, I wish I had not lied...My list goes on.  But, it seems that a life of regrets is also a life of me becoming a better person.  Those regrets discourage me from repeating them.  This is an encouraging perspective and it took a while to get there, after all it is a pilgrimage, but it is important. My sins are not so great and my acts of kindness have lit someone's day, or I hope so.

In the meantime, Harold has given me courage.  This book, this work of fiction, is better than many self help books out there or religious works for that matter, in spite of the language used.  It is a joy to know that others believe that to put one foot in front of another can already be an act of courage, generosity, gratitude and love.  Rachel Joyce's book is in itself a generous gesture to many strangers.  This one will sit next to 'The Elegance of the Hedgehog' and 'The Book of Tea'.

Rachel Joyce 
ISBN: 9780552778091 

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