Date Read: 19 July 2017
Published by Perseus Books, September 2017
Verdict: In parts poignant. In other parts unfocussed.
Torre DeRoche is grieving the loss of the two most important men in her life–the partner of nine years who she’s just broken up with, and her father, who’s just passed away–when she crosses paths with Masha, a woman who has put her marriage on hold to pursue a dream of walking the world in order to try and make sense of it. When Masha invites Torre to join her on a pilgrimage in India, Torre embarks on a journey both physical and spiritual.
It’s an uncertain route full of danger–pollution, wild dogs, snakes, and men–but if they can survive uninjured the duo hope they’ll absorb wisdom by osmosis and end the journey as two women who are fit, fearless, and ready to save the world. But nothing these two unlikely adventurers encounter is quite as terrifying as being 30-something women who have no clue about anything anymore.
This book was frustrating to me. It sounds like it should be right up my alley: combining a memoir about loss with a memoir about walking pilgrimages. These are two of my favourite topics of memoirs and I often enjoy reading those types of books immensely. Add the fact that Torre DeRoche had already written a memoir about her relationship with her partner and how they spend a couple of years on a boat together and I was looking forward to reading this. I was absolutely intrigued to see how she would deal with the fact that her relationship that had just ended was such a public one – one she had written a monument to.
Torre DeRoche lost two of the most important men in her life: her nine-year relationship ended right around the time her father died. Apparently because her partner could not stand still long enough to stay with her while she spent time with her dying father. [Aside: I am trying very hard not to judge him here. I know we only know her side of the story… but leaving your partner to deal with the death of their father on their own because you want to keep travelling? Not cool, to say the least] She is at a loss as to how to precede with her life now – she had spent most of her time travelling and seeing the world but now feels like she wants to settle down but does not really know how to do this; how to stay in one place for an extended period of time and to put down roots. When she meets Masha – a woman she knows periphically – again in Italy she decides to accompany her first on her pilgrimage to Rome and than later on a pilgrimage following Ghandi’s footsteps in India.
The memoir worked best for me when it was focussed on Torre herself and her friendship with Masha. Here the story was clear and the purpose of writing it was obvious. I would have liked for her to be a little bit more introspective – but I understand that writing a memoir is a very personal endeavour and the author needs to write it in a way that feels right for them.
The writing got a bit muddled whenever Torre DeRoche tried to make claims for everybody – here her research was definitely not thorough enough and it felt out of place in a memoir that is ultimately about a personal journey through loss to self-discovery. It sometimes felt like she wasn’t quite clear as to what she wanted to accomplish – the descriptions of the walks could have been more vivid or her inner journey could have been more fleshed-out.
In the end, I did enjoy this book and especially the second part, the one dealing with India and a pilgrimage that was in many places obviously unpleasant, was super interesting to read. I just think that maybe Torre DeRoche should have waited a bit longer with writing about it. A bit of added distance might have done wonders for the focus.
First sentence: “When I was a kid, I killed everyone I loved in hundred creative ways.”
I received an arc of this book curtesy of NetGalley and Perseus Books in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for that.