Friday, August 7, 2009
The Leisure Seeker, by Michael Zadoorian
My 200th post! Heavens, a lot of words and a lot of images. I am going to mark the milestone with a book recommendation, something not typically found on my blog.
Not because I don't have opinions, mind you. Lord knows I am full of opinions. I'm used to expressing them as well; over the years I've written a ridiculous amount of reviews. This comes with the territory of a magazine writer and editor, especially when you are on staff at a small publication with a limited freelance budget; whether you relish the role or not, if that's your job then you are automatically a critic when needed. There were always products and books that needed evaluating for our readers.
But enough about all that. I want to tell you about The Leisure Seeker. Michael Zadoorian has created a novel that resonated with me and will stay in my thoughts for quite some time.
I discovered this book's existence while browsing through the travel section at the Toronto Public Library's web site. Quickly scanning the description, I surmised it was a novel about an older couple on a road trip. Thinking that would make for a good summer read, I requested it. I was not prepared for the book to be so much more.
This is the story of Ella and John. They are in their eighties, happily married for decades and now both seriously ill. Ella is a plump, spunky woman who needs her cane to walk any distance. She has incurable cancer. John, while still fairly robust, has developed Alzheimer's. Despite these drawbacks, Ella makes the decision that they need a vacation, an adventure, and so off they go, a road trip along historic Route 66 in their beloved 1978 Leisure Seeker camper van. Starting point: their Detroit home. Ella's desired destination: Disneyland.
Is the trip a foolish idea? Likely, but that is one of the beauties of aging that Ella wonderfully demonstrates in this novel: you can do what you want and damn the consequences. Ella is determined to take this journey and so they steal away, telling neither their doctors nor their children they are leaving. It is to be the experience of a lifetime, the ultimate road trip. Narrated by Ella, the novel chronicles both the vacation -- the oddities they encounter along the historic roadway, the health problems both face -- as well as her recollections of their life together. The book is at times amusing, romantic, poignant.
I shall not give away any more. Do they complete their journey and make it across the country to California, to Disneyland? You'll have to read the book to find out. I thought I had an idea of how it would turn out, but the ending unfolded differently than I anticipated. I softly closed the book when I finished, staring off into space for a bit. The novel stirs up a lot of emotions, is definitely thought-provoking. You will likely want to see Route 66 for yourself after reading this book, and you will also look lovingly at your spouse and be thankful for your years together, I am sure.
This book is a keeper. I think you'll like it too.
Excerpt from The Leisure Seeker:
We sit for a while in the van and sip juice, eat grapes, along with some Chicken in a Biskit crackers. It's an odd combination, one that I'm not sure I approve of, but I didn't feel like rooting around in the back for anything more substantial. Anyway, I'm just happy to have an appetite. The grapes are luscious, dark and juicy, so I tuck a napkin under my collar as I eat. Neither of us says anything. John occasionally makes a small approving grunt, but that's it. It's good this way, good that we're not speaking. Speaking would only ruin it. For a moment, I am so happy I could cry. This is exactly the sort of thing that makes traveling wonderful for me, the reason I defied everyone. The two of us together like we have always been, not saying anything, not doing anything special, just on vacation. I know nothing lasts, but even when you know that things are just about over, sometimes you can run back and take a little bit more and no one will notice.