Saturday, June 12, 2010

Book Review: "The Leisure Seeker" by Michael Zadoorian

True confession time: I am a total sap. (As if you didn't know.) Seriously. I get misty-eyed at the drop of a hat, whether it's watching a golfer win their first professional tournament, hearing a song that reminds me of something poignant in my life, or even that Folger's commercial when the brother comes home from Africa unexpectedly, just in time for Christmas. So let's just say that Michael Zadoorian's fantastic book, The Leisure Seeker, had me at hello, and reduced me to tears by the end.

John and Ella Robina have been married for a long time. They have two grown children and several grandchildren, and both are dealing with serious health problems in the twilight of their lives. Ella has terminal cancer and John is in the early to middle stages of Alzheimer's. Knowing that the end of their lives—or at least life as they know it—is imminent, Ella decides they should go on one last vacation, a trip in their Leisure Seeker trailer, from their Detroit home to Disneyland. Needless to say, neither their doctors nor their children support this decision, and once they leave, both children threaten to send the police after them to bring them home.

Their trip across the country is at times nostalgic (they travel along Route 66) and difficult, as Ella's pain is increasing, as are John's periods of dementia. And while Ella realizes this trip may be the last time they're on their own, it doesn't stop her from being incredibly frustrated with John's "spells" or her children's reaction to their trip. A number of times on their trip Ella and John watch old slides of past family vacations in the Leisure Seeker, which serve as an emotional counterbalance to their current state.

Zadoorian does an amazing job telling the story from Ella's viewpoint. He truly has captured the spirit and soul of a woman nearing the end of her life, torn between love and devotion to her husband and frustration with the decline of his memory. While you have a feeling how the book might end, the story is rarely, if ever, predictable. The ending is difficult (and that's not giving anything away) but I walked away privileged to have spent time with the Robinas. Truly a wonderful book.

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