The Robina family of metro Detroit is having some major challenges lately. Ella – mother, grandmother and lifelong homemaker, has cancer and doesn’t want chemotherapy or radiation, thank you very much. To make matters worse, her husband, John, has progressive dementia and can’t even remember to wash. In the face of such troubles, what would be the right thing to do?
Take your Leisure Seeker RV on a trip across the country and don’t tell your adult children, of course, (silly)!
Yes, that’s right. Leave your Madison Heights, Michigan home, your children, and your grandchildren and plan a trip to Disneyland right across Route 66. That’s because Route 66 is a special place, full of memories of your past, including memorable vacations, so it’s both symbolic and appropriate. Don’t forget your slide projector and white bedsheet for nightly slide shows.
Except, there’s one problem. Ella has cancer and John can barely remember where he is. Also, their children are scared to death and Ella refuses to tell them where they are and where they are headed.
I have to give credit to Zadoorian for his original plot and the way he handled complicated, difficult social problems with dark humor and descriptive prose. Let’s face it – aging can really suck for some people. Part of me can understand not wanting to prolong the agony of illness by treating it with heroic measures. Another part of me understands why Ella didn’t want to put John in a nursing facility. I’ve seen enough illness and been in enough nursing homes to feel empathy towards people who are sick and elderly.
The other part of me was annoyed by the self-centered tone that Ella had through the entire book. She didn’t sound like an elderly woman, she sounded like a smart-ass, middle-aged man. The line, “I’m sorry if I worried the children, but I have spent all of my adult life worrying about them, so I’m just going to call it even,” was the most asinine, self-serving crap that I’ve read in ages. The only thing Zadoorian left out was Ella singing, “I Did It My Way” as the grand finale.
After listening to her sad story for 272 pages, Ella announces that it’s not my place to say what’s right and what’s wrong. Sorry – too late.
Would I recommend “The Leisure Seeker”? The short answer is yes. I think Zadoorian is a talented writer and it’s a fast read. It touches on real-life issues and, as an extra bonus, it’s set in metro Detroit. However, I think Zadoorian missed the boat by making his characters so ultimately unlikable. I never warmed up to John, even when he was lucid and I ended up not being able to relate to Ella at all.
The whole thing was a gritty, long, dusty trip.