Roll me up and smoke me when I die.
A tragic shipwreck.

A try at fiction.

A friend recently suggested to me that I shake up my reading habits a bit by changing genres, so I thought I'd try a novel over the weekend.

I found Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry in my local library's "Serendipity Collection"--a collection of popular books that exists outside of the library's regular holdings, and books in which can be checked out for two weeks. This is a way to circumvent the waiting list for a number of popular books, to reward patrons on a "first come, first serve" basis. It's not a bad idea, but normally I never have to go near it, because I don't usually have any problems finding anything to read. However, in the last few weeks, I never seem to be in the mood for any of the books I have coming in on my hold list. So there I was, looking at my Serendipity options. And this novel is the one I came home with.

It's the story of one Harold Fry, husband of Maureen, former brewery accountant, and now retired and largely going-through-the-motions gentleman. Then a letter arrives from a long-ago friend, Queenie Hennessy: in which she informs him she is dying of cancer. He can't think of much else to do, so he pens a very proper British condolence note, and sets off to mail it.

Somewhere along the way to the mailbox he decides, instead, that if he walks nearly the length of England (he's in the south of England; Queenie is in the north), Queenie will just have to keep living until he gets there. So he just keeps walking.

Of course there's a lot of foreshadowing and revelations along the way: what has been going wrong in Harold's marriage; he and his wife's relationship with their son; the favor Queenie did for Harold and for which he was never able to thank her.

I enjoyed it (and of course I enjoyed the British setting), but I warn you: it's a weeper. Towards the end I went through a few tissues--but that might also just be the mood I'm in.* I don't know that I loved it, but I did want to keep reading it until I was done, and that's saying something these days.

*Or the mood we're all in, in the never-ending winter wonderland that is Wisconsin. I'm feeling simultaneously edgy and weepy these days; must be the lack of sunlight or above-freezing temperatures.