This is a week set aside for promotion, guests and reviews. I have a special guest ready to come but she is heavily booked with her recent release, so I have my interview with her scheduled for the next ‘free’ week in two weeks.
Today I chose to review a book that was published two years ago,(in July 2012). Although it is not a new release, I have a point to make.
I read this book because I was involved in my local library’s Summer Adult Reading Program last year and one of the challenges was to read a book by an author with the same last name. I found Rachel Joyce’s “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye” on the shelf,(I had been perusing a number of Brenda Joyce volumes) and decided to give it a try .
Although it moves slowly in parts, “Harold Frye” has a captivating story that unfolds as we travel with the title character.
Harold and his wife lived in quiet retirement in the south of England until one day, Harold received a letter from a woman with whom he used to work. The woman’s letter said that she is dying and just felt the need to contact him. Harold wrote quick letter to her and then walked past first one, than another, mailbox until he goes on his ‘pilgrimage’ to see the woman, who happens to now be in the northern part of the country. One can see right away that there is more to the relationship than meets the eye, but is the truth what one would usually suspect between a male and female co-worker?
I won’t give away any more of the plot or the revelations we see that happen involving his wife, Maureen, their son, David, and the dying woman, Queenie, along with others who attach themselves to Harold throughout his journey.
What I do want to talk about is the fact that Harold and his wife are retirement age yet, unlike most stories, they are the main characters and are portrayed as actual people.
Most novels revolve around young people, either young people on their own or young couples. I understand:Youth sells. Often there are older folks around, but they are usually secondary characters, or the catalysts. Older people are usually portrayed as wise sages, doddering oldsters or other ‘colorful characters’. They are often shown in very tight roles with very defined and limited dimensions, but in “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye”, we read the layers and depths in the lives of these characters; we see the depths of their secrets, the depths of the pain they kept in their hearts. Rachel Joyce has created a wonderful study in humanity as we travel not only with Harold physically, but with him, (Maureen, Queenie and others), as they find emotional freedom in one way or another. Most would view Harold and Maureen as past their prime, but we see that they are, indeed ,still people, with hopes and something to look forward to, if they let themselves. Life is not set in stone, they can regained what they had pushed to the side; they heal, they grow.
A bit of a spoiler, (though not really): In “Harold Fry” Queenie’s passing is one of the most sensitive and well-written scenes I have ever read. It is quite in synch with my ideas on what awaits us all.
Another writer who developed mature-but-realistic-characters is our founding Fox, author Jillian Chantel, in her “Minute” series. I’d like to see more writers do so as well.
Do you agree? Do you know of other books with mature and fully-fleshed-out protagonists?
Have you by any chance read “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye”?