Excerpt from Let's Call It a Doomsday by Katie Henry, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Let's Call It a Doomsday

by Katie Henry

Let's Call It a Doomsday by Katie  Henry X
Let's Call It a Doomsday by Katie  Henry
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2019, 400 pages
    Aug 2020, 416 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Catherine M Andronik
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Print Excerpt


HERE IS ONE way the world could end:

In a peaceful corner of northwest Wyoming, under the feet of park rangers, herds of deer, and thousands of tourists to Yellowstone National Park, lies a giant reservoir of burning, deadly magma called the Yellowstone Caldera. First, there would be earthquakes, the kind you can't sleep through. Then would come the supereruption, a rare seismic event. Rare, but possible. Rare, but overdue. The park would be a lake of lava, but the real problem would be the ash, which would blanket the entire United States, coast to coast. In the Rockies, the ash would crush buildings, devastate crops, suffocate animals and people. Even a few inches would make national highways impassable, ruin farms, shut down air travel. Life as we know it would be over. The entire planet would grow colder.

Here is another way the world could end: I could fail my driving test for a third time.

"Twice isn't even that many times to fail. Two times, that's all, and my parents look at me like I've murdered something. Something cute. And fuzzy." I take a breath. "There are bigger problems in the world than me not being able to drive my sister to ballet. Millions of people don't have clean drinking water. Two-thirds of the animals on Earth might be dead in five years, did you know that? And at any time—any time—a gamma-ray burst could destroy the ozone layer and kill us all."

"Could we bring this conversation back to you?" Martha asks.

We're not actually having a conversation. She's a therapist and I'm a client, and even though her office is made to look like someone's living room, we're not doing this for fun.

"Sure," I say. "Forget the world, I could have bigger problems than not being able to drive. I could be an alcoholic. I could be a shoplifter. I could be selling my dad's muscle relaxants in the park across from school, did they think about that?"

"Do you think there are some fears wrapped up in this experience?"

"It's not irrational to be scared of driving. It's the most dangerous everyday activity."

"It's good to take safety seriously," Martha concedes. "And I know I've said this before, but fear can be a very useful tool. Everyone experiences fear, and there's a good reason for that. It helps us identify danger. It helps us survive."

"Yeah, exactly, we should all be more scared."

"But sometimes, people experience fear that's constant, or very intense, or out of proportion to the situation," Martha adds gently. "And when fear keeps you from living your life freely, that's when it has to be addressed. Not eliminated completely. Just managed."

"My mom says I can't go to college if I don't know how to drive," I say. "Like it's the equivalent of a high school diploma. And I'm not getting that for almost two more years, so what's her rush?"

"It sounds like you're feeling a lot of pressure."

"For no good reason! I can take the bus to school, I can walk to church and your office and the library, I can get on BART if I want to go to San Francisco. I'm fine." I pause. "People are too dependent on cars. Like, sure, if a geomagnetic storm destroyed the electricity grid and society collapsed, you could use a car to get somewhere safer—"

Martha clears her throat. I keep going.

"—but we live in a city; the freeways would pile up. And gas expires, it oxidizes, so all the cars would be rusted from the inside out, anyway. You can't count on cars."

"Do you think this is a worthwhile thought pattern, Ellis?"

Is anything you do worthwhile, Ellis?

I shake my head.

"Let's talk about what happened during the driving test."

"Nothing happened."

"What do you mean?"

"I sat in the DMV parking lot with the ... driving evaluator, or whatever—and nothing happened." I pause. "Because I couldn't turn the car on."

Excerpted from Let's Call It a Doomsday by Katie Henry. Copyright © 2019 by Katie Henry. Excerpted by permission of Katherine Tegan Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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