Monday, August 8, 2016

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce

A few years ago I read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and absolutely loved it. It was the beautiful story of a man who gets a letter from an old friend who has let him know she is dying of cancer. He decides to walk to see her, believing she will hold on until he gets there. The only problem is that he lives in the south of England and she lives in the north. It's quite a long walk, and a personal journey that unfolds. It has become one of my all time favourite books and definitely my favourite in recent years.

I later heard that a parallel book had been written, telling the story of Queenie Hennessy, the woman Harold is walking to see. I was so excited to read it that I apparently bought two copies at different times! However with the kids and school and my reading for book club I never got around to reading it. Plus, I loved Harold Fry so much I was a bit afraid to read this one because I was afraid that this might not be as good and would ruin the original story for me. So I put off reading it for a long time. But last week I finally picked it up and I read it quickly and loved it. Maybe not quite as much as Harold Fry but a lot.

Queenie Hennessy is getting settled into a hospice in Berwick-Upon-Tweed in the north of England when she feels she needs to send a letter to her old friend Harold Fry to let him know about her poor health. When she hears her letter has spurred him to walk across the country to visit her, she realizes she needs him to know the truth about some things that happened in their shared past. With the help of one of the nuns from the hospice she begins to write to Harold, with the nun transcribing on her typewriter. Most of the book is her letter to Harold, but mixed in are some funny and heartwarming scenes from inside the hospice. There are some fantastic characters who live there, all anxiously awaiting Harold's arrival, taking hope and strength from his decision to walk.

It is interesting to read the same story again from Queenie's perspective. Things that Harold didn't know when he was walking are introduced, things Queenie needs to confess before it is too late for her.

It is a beautiful story of friendship, love, the hurts we hide and the pain everyone faces at different times in their lives. I love these two stories so much and recommend them highly. Definitely begin with Harold Fry and then read this one. I hope you'll love them too!

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