Summersdale, £8.99, ISBN 978-1-84953-418-5
Now, the travel memoir isn’t my first choice of reading material, especially those that feature women going abroad to discover love and enlightenment, which they then proceed to share with us, along with a photo of their fresh-faced perkiness in a cozy embrace with that hot guy they snagged on their quest for self discovery, for the price of a trade paperback. Something about their newfound joy stirs the bitter flames of malcontent in my soul, making me think, for a moment, that I really need to fix up my life too.
Torre DeRoche, who owns and writes for fearfuladventurer.com, offers her own love story in Love with a Chance of Drowning. Despite the rather fatalistic title, this one is an upbeat and humorous account of her crazy adventures at sea with a hot guy. Oh, and before you scoff, a quick search online tells me that Ms DeRoche and that guy, Ivan Nepomnaschy, are still going strong after eight years and counting, so be assured that this isn’t one of those romantic memoirs written in the heat of the moment, before the screaming, the “You never understood me!” drama, and other post-coital and post-publication remorse set in. Girlfriend reeled in a real hot one during her first ever one-night stand (I know, that’s what we all say, but let’s drop the cynicism and take the author for her word) and I can only approve.
Our heroine leaves Australia for a year of soul-searching via rat racing in the United States. Her mother and sisters made her promise that she’d never hook up with an American guy in the meantime, as they want her to come back there instead of settling down in America and starting to mock everything Australian like the rest of the world. Fortunately for Ms DeRoche, then, that Ivan is Argentinian. No promises broken, phew! She and Ivan first meet in a one-night stand that, really, shouldn’t mean a thing. Right? But he calls, she answers, and the next thing she knows, they both quit their jobs to spend a year going around the world on a leaking yacht named Amazing Grace. She is afraid of water, but hey, what can go wrong?
When I finished this book, I asked my husband how come we didn’t do crazy things when we were younger and capable of running for more than five minutes without wheezing for breath in the next fifteen minutes. He pointed out that (a) we had student loans to pay by the wazoo, (b) we just bought a house and had to start making monthly payments, (c) the last time we took a short boat ride, I was sick for almost two hours, and (d) we would both lose our jobs if we took even two months off from work, as many employers in this part of Asia don’t believe in employees taking sabbatical to find themselves and get a tan. I thought about his points, realized that they were all true, and I’d probably go crazy in a yacht without Internet connection or air conditioning anyway.
Therefore, while I do like the take home message here – we should get out of our comfort zone and do something crazy in order to find fulfillment in our lives – I’m not sure whether I have here empty platitudes akin to Beyoncé Knowles telling me that I should be content with my looks because it is her inner beauty that makes a girl hot. In other words, this message applies to people who are already privileged under the circumstances – in this case, without financial concerns or other mundane issues that would hold them back from quitting the rat race for a year. Everyone else, tough. Press your face against the window pane and drool at the sight of the tanned and happy couple. This is a nice story, therefore, but she and her guy are not every day people, and, therefore, that’s all this is: a nice story.
Still, the story is an enjoyable read. The author has a strong narrative voice, and it’s pretty cute how she manages to make herself seem vulnerable, insecure, or worried for the more dramatic moments in this story. Sure, it’s pretty obvious that nobody dies or gets arrested in Thailand for drug trafficking, but the moments of suspense do feel rather, er, suspenseful when they crop up. Ms DeRoche makes herself a pretty likable protagonist here, and her self-depreciating humor has me chuckling now and then. I feel like I’m the author’s friend instead of someone at the receiving end of a “Look at me! I’m amazing and I bet you wish you are too!” kind of narcissistic showcase that most “memoirs” written by women who find their groove by sleeping with hot European or South American guys tend to be.
While I can’t connect emotionally or even intellectually with the author here, I end up appreciating her outlook, enjoying her adventure, and even admiring her for daring to do things that I would never even think of attempting myself. That makes Love with a Chance of Drowning alright where I am concerned.