Lushly Told 'Worrier's Guide to the End of the World' is Worth the Trip

Worrier's Guide to the End of the World by Torre DeRoche

“The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World”
by Torre DeRoche
c.2017, Seal Press
$16.99 / $22.49 Canada
259 pages

Life is a long, strange trip.

It’s filled with missed connections, late arrivals and departures that hurt. You might have a smooth road, but the wrong map; there may be detours you don’t expect, or streets that are closed to traffic. But, as in The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World: Love, Loss, and Other Catastrophes – Through Italy, India, and Beyond,” by Torre DeRoche, it’s all worth it, if you’ve got a good traveling companion.

Fear was something that Torre DeRoche grew up with.

Her father was a film director, famous for his horror movies; posters for them hung in DeRoche’s childhood home and every day, they fed her fears. One of those was a fear of death, which grew and roared when her father passed away shortly after her grandmother died – and then DeRoche’s long-time boyfriend left her.

After those emotional blows, DeRoche “didn’t keep in touch with anyone,” so she was surprised when Masha, a woman she’d met months before at a networking party, emailed her with an invitation: Masha was walking across Europe on a “pilgrimage,” and would DeRoche like to come along?

Fear almost said “no,” but DeRoche said “yes.”

What better way to face phobia head-on than with someone by her side?  She and Masha had become fast friends once before; they could do it again – and they did, across Italy, through lazy fields and hostels of stone. They marveled at how they were each others’ best traveling companion. It worked out so fantastically that Masha asked DeRoche to come along on another pilgrimage, this one across India.

But as well as the first walkabout went, the second was correspondingly disastrous. It was hot, dusty, and filthy on their India trip. Accommodations often lacked basic sanitation, and the threat of poisoning – by food or vermin – was constant. Masha always seemed angry. DeRoche felt confused by her friend’s mood. Everything had changed, including her newly waning waves of fear – and that left a pretty clear message: Sometimes, you should “let go of what should be and fall, instead, into what is so.”

Spiders, airplanes, mice, clowns, dogs, heights, snakes, being alone, death, are you scared yet?  Do you need a minute before you start reading “The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World”?

Fear not: This book isn’t anything that’ll frighten you further. DeRoche focuses instead on things we all understand: loss and despair, friendship and self-discovery. Here, fear is the driver of the story, but DeRoche’s journeys – both emotional and physical – are the end result, and the trip is recounted with humor and vivid color. On that last note, don’t be surprised to find yourself in a gauzy flowered meadow on a sunny afternoon, or a polluted red-dirt highway you’ll share with roadkill. Yes, DeRoche is that good at taking a reader there…

Readers looking for a travelogue will find a nice change of pace here, as will those looking for a humorous slice-of-life or a holiday vacation read. It’s different, it’s enjoyable, “The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World” is worth the trip.

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When Terri Schlichenmeyer was three years old, her long-suffering mother taught Terri to read – mostly to get her out of Mom’s hair – and the book most likely to be read was “Mumpsy Goes to Kindergarten.” That was eons ago, but it set a precedent; now Terri reads four to five books a week and writes book reviews for hundreds of newspapers and magazines around the world. She lives in a house on a hill in Wisconsin with two ferocious little dogs and 14,000 books – including about 4,000 trivia books, 2,000 history books, and, yes, “Mumpsy.”