The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Some of my favourite excerpts…
Harold sat in silence. The silver-haired gentleman was in truth nothing like the man Harold had first imagined him to be. He was a chap like himself, with a unique pain; and yet there would be no knowing that if you passed him in the street, or sat opposite him in a café and did not share his teacake. Harold pictured the gentleman on a station platform, smart in his suit, looking no different from anyone else. It must be the same all over England. People were buying milk, or filling their cars with petrol, or even posting letters. And what no one else knew was the appalling weight of the thing they were carrying inside. The inhuman effort it took sometimes to be normal, and a part of things that appeared both easy and everyday. The loneliness of that. Moved and humbled, he passed his paper napkin.
Harold believed his journey was truly beginning. He had thought it started the moment he decided to walk to Berwick, but he saw now that he had been naïve. Beginnings could happen more than once, or in different ways. You could think you were starting something afresh, when actually what you were doing was carrying on as before. He had faced his shortcomings and overcome them, and so the real business of walking was happening only now.
The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other; and a life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had been doing so for a long time. Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that this was the dilemma of being human.
She found again the day at Bantham, when David had swum out into the current. She watched Harold fiddling over his laces, and she thought of the years she had spent rebuking him. And then she saw the image through a new perspective, as if she had turned the camera and pointed it back on herself. Her stomach jumped. There was a woman at the water’s edge, shouting and waving her hands, but not running into the sea. A mother half mad with fright, but doing nothing about it. If David had almost drowned at Bantham, she had been equally to blame.