The Leisure Seeker, by Michael Zadoorian, is an excellent book. It was written in 2009, and I only read it because it is the December selection for the Los Gatos Library Book Club (which I'm only attending because Books, Inc. doesn't have a 4th Tuesday Book Club meeting this month). I had certainly never heard of the book or the author prior to this. Kudos to Melissa Maglio for picking it.
The story line is easy to articulate. It's about a couple, married nearly 60 years and in their early 80's, who decide to take a road trip. Actually, the wife, Ella, decides. Her husband, John, has a fairly advanced form of dementia and spends only a small part of the time lucid. Ella, herself, has cancer and has refused chemo and radiation treatments, despite the entreaties of their 57-year old daughter, their 49-year old son, and her doctor.
This is no ordinary road trip. They are driving from their home outside Detroit all the way to Disneyland, CA (not Disney World, FLA) on the old Route 66. As hard as it is for Ella to travel with John, his driving is fine. Ella has decided that nobody is going to tell her whether she can do this or not. In fact, they basically leave clandestinely so that she doesn't have to deal with her kids.
You can see that it's an interesting story. But there's so much more to it than that. Ella is so cool. The voice that Kadoorian gives her is the voice that I want to have when I reach that age. She's not anybody's doddering old woman. She swears, she packs heat, and, yet, waxes philosophical. She is an amazing character. Here are a few examples of what she says:
"This is why RV's are the cat's ass." (they've had the same RV for 30 years)
"Anyone who never met a man he didn't like just isn't trying hard enough." (on why she doesn't like Will Rogers)
"Does a feeling of movement soothe a new baby in the same way it soothes an old woman? It doesn't seem like it should, but somehow this makes sense to me. New to the earth and not long for it somehow don't seem so different these days." (explaining to a young mother why it helps to put the baby in the car if he can't sleep)
"You worry about parents, siblings, spouses dying, yet no one prepares you for your friends dying. Every time you flip through your address book, you are reminded of it - she's gone, he's gone, they're both gone. Names and numbers and addresses are scratched out. Page after page of gone, gone, gone. The sense of loss that you feel isn't just for the person. It is the death of your youth, the death of fun, of warm conversations and too many drinks, of long weekends, of shared pains and victories and jealousies, of secrets that you couldn't tell anyone else, of memories that only you two shared. It's the death of your monthly pinochle game.
"Know this: even if you're like us and still doddering around above ground, someone out there from your past is probably pretty sure that you're dead by now." (thinking about her friends while lying in bed)
I know that's a long passage, but I haven't seen writing this good (including 11/22/63 and Winter of the World) since Michael David Lukas's Oracle of Stamboul. It's just outstanding. I have spent much of the book crying and laughing - often simultaneously.
I think anybody would like this book but maybe less so if you're a yung'un. Those of us who are of a certain age, I think, will appreciate it a bit more. If you are the right demographic (i.e. old), then get a hold of this book. You will NOT be disappointed.
P.S. The ending is special.