"Marvelous! I held my breath at his every blister and cramp, and felt as if by turning the pages, I might help his impossible quest succeed."
—Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
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I have spoken before about how this story began as a radio play that I wrote for my father when he was dying of cancer, but I have had far less opportunity to describe its publication as a novel—and the people I have met since then.
In writing about Harold and Maureen with their terrible unspoken secret, and all those people that Harold meets as he walks to save a friend's life, I was trying to celebrate the ordinary people. (I think the shiny ones get quite enough attention.) I wanted to write about the small acts of kindness, the conversations where words do not even tip the surface of feeling, the courage and bravery of everyday things. Readers have written to me about their experiences of travel, of friendship, of marriage, of loss, and tragedy too. They have told me about book group discussions and the people with whom they have shared the story—lost friends, parents, children. I met a lovely man who told me he would not read my book because it had no trains in it, and a woman who said nothing, who simply held my hand and cried. I had no idea—as I sat in my shed, surrounded by pieces of paper, with a head full of words—that the book could make such a journey.
So this is what I have discovered—and it has been a gift in itself - that books live over and over again in different people's minds. That I might mean one thing as I write, but a reader's experiences will take it somewhere else. That is like a conversation, I think. It is a true connecting up.
I hope you enjoy Harold's story.
With my best wishes,
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