In 2012, I read the The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry which told the tale of a mild mannered man whose monotonous life suddenly changed when he received a letter from a former co-worker. Queenie had mailed the the news that she was dying. Harold set off to post a return letter and instead, kept on walking (in his unsuitable deck shoes)- all the way across England. He let Queenie know that he was walking, telling her to wait for him. Along the way, he met interesting people, was joined by others and was followed by the media.
The Love Song of Queenie Hennessy tells Queenie’s side of the story as she waits, dying in hospice, for Harold to complete his journey. As she waits, she recounts her unrequited love for Harold through a letter she writes for him. The reader understands the depth of her love as she describes the first time she saw him, as she talks about the times they spent together travelling for work, how she protected his job and the secret relationship that she shared with his troubled son.
The novels combine to form a story of things left unsaid, of regret and disappointment but also of life, reflection and new beginnings. As Harold walks and learns about himself, Queenie reflects on her life. She remembers the time spent with Harold at work, her abrupt departure and how she healed as lived a life of solitude, tending her beloved garden. Ultimately, Queenie gave Harold a final gift – the time to reflect and choose how he would share the rest of his life.
I enjoyed both books but would suggest reading the stories consecutively. I am sure that I have forgotten details from the first book which would have enhanced the story of Queenie. If I did not have a long list of books to read, I might be tempted to reread The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.