As I had been hoping and expecting, Maureen: A Harold Fry Novel is a deeply satisfying finale to the books, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy. I described the first two novels in this post, and now that I have read all three, I wholeheartedly recommend the trilogy. Here's the summary of Maureen:
Harold Fry's wife Maureen hears that Harold's friend Queenie had erected a monument to their late son David (you will have to read Queenie's book to learn about her friendship with David) in what had become known as "The Garden of Relics." Maureen feels compelled to visit this monument, right away. She embarks on the dauntingly long journey by car, determined to complete the drive in one day, and meets some perilous challenges along the way.
While both Harold and Queenie had been known for their kindness towards others, Maureen is plagued by old jealousies and resentments, and is not comfortable in her own skin. She is easily annoyed by the people she meets on her trip and can't seem to connect with or trust anyone.
"'A difficult child' she heard her mother saying. Now she thought of them, the words seem so clear....She could remember the smell of her mother, too, always the same, always redolent of everything most longed for and most elusive....Maureen looked into the mirror and saw the ghost of her mother, staring back."
Maureen has an extremely emotional reaction when she comes upon David's monument. She is forced to confront some of her deepest insecurities and learns much about herself in the process. Author Rachel Joyce provides both additional backstory and eloquent closure, allowing the reader to finally be at peace with Queenie, Harold, Maureen, and David.
I bought the paperback and enjoyed its beautiful little etchings - how else would we know what "driving shoes" look like? - and the gorgeous cover evoking the book's "Garden of Relics" and looking reminiscent of Scandinavian folk art. Included in the paperback (and not the audiobook) is an interview with Rachel Joyce, plus the author's imagined Correspondence With Maureen, and Q and A Topics for Discussion for book clubs. However listening to the audiobook was also a wonderful treat as it was narrated by Penelope Wilton of Downton Abbey fame, who absolutely IS Maureen, and will soon play Maureen in the film release of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. So I can't help but recommend getting both!
Audiobook 3 hours, 35 minutes, Paperback 192 pages: a short, sweet read!