“The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry,” by Rachel Joyce

“Pilgrimage” begins in what might be described as a state of uneasy “coze” and quickly turns into something else — a literal journey, when 65-year-old Harold Fry resolves to walk the length of England to visit a long-lost friend dying of cancer, as well as an inner pilgrimage to revisit traumas that have estranged him from his wife, Maureen.

Joyce possesses a poet’s sensibility and ear: “The road stretched between the dense corridors of hedgerow, and light sieved through the cracks and fissures. Fresh shoots speared the earth banks.” Oh, Rachel Joyce, how I envy you that perfect “sieved”!

“Pilgrimage” is a journey into an ordinary man’s griefs, mistakes, and triumphs. A deep kindness and forgiveness for human limitations flow out to the reader from Harold’s encounters with strangers along his 600-mile route: “They had made a decision in their hearts and minds to ignore the evidence and imagine something bigger and something infinitely more beautiful than the obvious.” In our present stay-at-home moment, Joyce’s sad, funny, wise novel is a trip worth taking.

Thomas R. Smith, River Falls, Wis.

Quarantine Reads are recommendations of soothing books during fraught times. Send your suggestion, with your name and city, to books@startribune.com