This is a story of a man haunted by memories from 20 years ago. He gets a letter from an old work friend, saying she is dying of cancer and wants to say goodbye. He writes a reply, not liking how it sounds, but knowing he must write something and walks to post the letter. The box comes too soon and he says to himself "I'll just walk to the next one". Time passes and he finds himself walking all the way from the south of the United Kingdom to the north, over 500 miles.
Throughout his long walk, he finds himself remembering things he had not thought of for years, thinking of his son, his wife and his friend Queenie. The people he meets along the way encourage him and eventually he gains massive publicity for his walk. This is where I became less interested. When he is joined by a large group of people who want to join him and end up delaying his progress, I just wanted him to leave them all behind.
The parts about his wife, and how she discovers after 20 years that she does love her husband after all, are interesting and touching.
I felt overall the book was ok. I liked it, but didn't feel too much about the whole story overall. I found the parts near the end a bit too depressing and had to force my way through to finish the story. There was one quote early on in the book that really spoke to me though:
Harold pictured the gentleman on a station platform, smart in his suit, looking no different from anyone else. It must be the same all over England. People were buying milk, or filling their cars with petrol, or even posting letters. And what no one else knew was the appalling weight of the thing they were carrying inside. The inhuman effort it took sometimes to be normal, and a part of things that appeared both easy and everyday. The loneliness of that. -p89-90