While I had seen lots of reviews of this last year, it was Scootsa1000's comparison to Major Pettigrew's Last Stand that finally convinced me to read this. While I enjoyed it, I can't say it captivated me in the same way that novel did but it was a pleasant read that made me want to go on long walks and stop for tea.
The novel kicks off when Harold receives a letter from a former friend and co-worker that he has lost touch with, telling him that she in a hospice with terminal cancer. Harold is recently retired, and he and his wife Maureen seem to be with each other more out of of habit than any affection. The novel also explains that neither of them has ever been that social so they have only each other, but instead live as two strangers whose lives happen to pass each other. Harold comes up with a short response to Queenie's letter but feels it is inadequate. He finds himself unable to drop it off in the drop box at the corner, choosing to keep walking, hoping something better will come to him. After a short stop and conversation at a gas station, he has his epiphany: he is going to walk the six hundred plus miles, and give Queenie something to look forward to. Maybe his faith will even save her.
And thus, he continues as he is, never consulting maps, just walking in his inappropriate footwear and clothing with no gear, after having spent the last six months of his retirement inactive. Maureen at first can't believe that he has gone, but his absence gives them both time to reflect on their past, their relationship with their son, and to learn about themselves. Maureen, after having held a grudge against Harold for years, starts remembering their early days, and comes out of her shell as she accepts the neighbor's attempts at friendship.
Harold, too, thinks about his mistakes, the things he should have changed, and how he has wronged Maureen and their son. Harold comes off as a decent, quiet man as he plods along steadily, and Maureen also is very sympathetic. They have lost the ability to communicate and over the years have drifted as a result, though neither one is portrayed as a villain. Overall, it's a sweet book. There was one segment I didn't enjoy as much as it interrupted Harold's solitary journey but absolutely seemed realistic. Overall, it's a sweet novel with likable characters who have regrets about their past and may have a shot at a second chance or redemption.