Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Len Vlahos

Harold FryThese days, every book I finish reading gets added to my GoodReads library. I’ve made a point of reserving five star reviews for only those books that manage to rise above the white noise of the world, that impact me in some meaningful and lasting way. It’s a fluid list, with some books getting better and some books getting worse over time. Kind of like wine.

I look through my library every so often, and it seems that I always find some five star review to downgrade. To get five stars, a book has stand up and slap me in the face, over and over again. Or, in the case of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, it has to pour me a drink and let me tell it my troubles.

I won’t use this space to tell you what Harold Fry is about. You can read the description for that. I will, however, tell you how this book made me feel: Inspired.

A friend once recommended I read the The Alchemist. Her experience with the Coelho book was that of a spiritual journey. While I appreciated The Alchemist, it didn’t really speak to me. Harold Fry did. I found myself examining my own life, contemplating the small victories and defeats of my time on this planet. I tried to understand what I’ve done well, what I’ve done poorly, who I’ve treated well, and who I’ve let down.

I made 24 distinct New Year’s Resolutions this year. As I did last year, I taped the resolutions to my bathroom wall. I figure if I have to look at them everyday, maybe they’ll sink in. (Of course, having to look at the bathroom wallpaper for five years hasn’t made me change it, so go figure.) Most of my resolutions are benign — read more, finish such and such writing project, slouch less, exercise more, blah, blah, blah. But a few — don’t sweat the small stuff; be less loud, always — get at the heart of who I think I can be.

I told a friend about this, and she said “24 resolutions? Dude. If you need 24 resolutions, maybe there’s a lot wrong with your life.” And this is what Harold Fry is all about. There’s a lot wrong with everyone’s life. Maybe we can make it better, and when we can’t, maybe we just need to give ourselves a break.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry may not be for everyone — it’s quiet and introspective (no exploding rocket ships or car chases) — but it is beautiful.