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The Leisure Seeker
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Product Description

John and Ella Robina have shared a wonderful life for more than fifty years. Now in their eighties, Ella suffers from cancer and has chosen to stop treatment. John has Alzheimer's. Yearning for one last adventure, the self-proclaimed "down-on-their-luck geezers" kidnap themselves from the adult children and doctors who seem to run their lives to steal away from their home in suburban Detroit on a forbidden vacation of rediscovery.

With Ella as his vigilant copilot, John steers their '78 Leisure Seeker RV along the forgotten roads of Route 66 toward Disneyland in search of a past they're having a damned hard time remembering. Yet Ella is determined to prove that, when it comes to life, a person can go back for seconds°™sneak a little extra time, grab a small portion more°™even when everyone says you can't.

Darkly observant, told with humor, affection, and a touch of irony, The Leisure Seeker is an odyssey through the ghost towns, deserted trailer parks, forgotten tourist attractions, giant roadside icons, and crumbling back roads of America. Ultimately it is the story of Ella and John: the people they encounter, the problems they overcome, the experiences they have lived, the love they share, and their courage to take back the end of their own lives.

Customer Reviews:

  • One the Road for One Last Time
    John has Alzheimer's, Ella has cancer and she's decided that she doesn't want to die in a hospital, so she's put her husband behind the wheel of their aging Leisure Seeker camper and they've taken off, heading out on Route 66. They're on the road, on vacation, for one last time.

    They've got adult children, who now treat their parents as if they're the kids. They want dad in a place where he can be looked after and they want mom undergoing treatment, but a long time ago Ella promised John that when they got old, if anything happened to his mind, that she'd never put him away.

    So they're having this last adventure, staying in campgrounds across the U.S. Viewing slides from their past in the evening, meeting strangers, even foiling an attempted robbery, and all the while sneaking they're way into your heart.

    Occasionally John flashes into his old self, but most of the time he's driving along in a sort of happy bliss while Ella navigates. They see the sights, do their best to stay on the original Route 66, but sometimes they have to get on the interstate, as the road's been paved over in places. John has to struggle to keep up, but you won't have to struggle to keep up with this heartwarming, tender, funny and sad story. I cried at the end, you will too.

    Review submitted by Captain Katie Osborne...more info
  • A Love Story
    John and Ella are about the age that my own parents would be if they were still with us. When I first read the summary of the book, my first thought was, what if she dies before the trip is over? And then, what would happen to John?

    The book is written so that it can be read at a leisurely pace. I thought that was very appropriate, since as we get older we find we must use a more leisurely pace, whether we want to or not! The book is also not terribly long, yet what needs to be told, is very well told indeed.

    The story is adventurous, nostalgic and is a love story, not in the Romeo and Juliet style, but in the style of our parents and grandparents who went through the Great Depression and World War II. When they married, they expected to stay married for a lifetime, and many of them did. As did John and Ella, married nearly 60 years.

    I can only say the ending was approximately what I expected from about half way through the book, although there were a couple of twists in it. I can't really say any more without ruining it.

    I'm not sure this book will appeal to younger readers (meaning 20-40), but it certainly speaks to us more "mature" readers who either have/had parents in this age group and are approaching that time of life ourselves. There is a lot for us to think about....more info
  • Original, but not quite authentic
    The blurb on The Leisure Seeker states that it is already under option by a producer, and it's small wonder: one can easily imagine great actors -- I envision Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn if they were still alive -- in these roles. The book, indeed, has a strong linear plot, several laugh-out-loud lines, and a poignant ending that seems, the more the reader thinks about it, the only authentic resolution possible.

    So why, then, did I not relate to it as well as many of the other reviewers? After navigating the same territory as Zadoorian with my own aging parent, I realize that there are many nuances in the aging process: rueful laughter, rage, sadness, loss, and quite a bit of denial. And it seemed this book, while intriguing, only skimmed the surface of these emotions.

    In other words, it often tells when it should go deeper and reveal more. One such example: while in Texas, Ella muses about loss: "Every time you flip through your address book, you are reminded of it: she's gone, he's gone, they're both gone...page after page, gone, gone, gone. The sense of loss that you feel isn't just for the person. It is the death of your youth..." This expository statement (and many others like it) seem to be coming from the author, who is trying to make sense of his parents' emotions, rather than from the aging Ella herself. Ella in real life, I suspect, would not just explain her emotions; she'd FEEL them.

    Sure, you get the vision of the last adventure, of the Altzheimer's patient and terminally ill cancer patient riding into the sunset together. But all too often, the adventure is advanced at the expense of the emotional development.

    It's a great ride for those who like their reading adventures primarily on the surface and who are looking for a decent escape. For those, though, who want a deeper and more poignant experience, there are better choices....more info
  • Two who carpe'd their diem
    Instead of giving in to pressures exerted by loved ones, doctors and society, terminally ill Ella "kidnaps" her husband John, who is falling more and more into the shadows of Alzheimer's. The two hit the road and against all odds, take the trip of a lifetime. At one point Ella tosses her wig out the window and dons a baseball cap, which she later on rejects also. As she puts it, "I'm tired of looking eccentric. I have not lived an eccentric life." As they make their way West, their past 60 years together is revealed through memories, some spurred by watching slides in the evening. And yes, that life had been unexceptional, familiar. But beautifully wrought. Michael Zadoorian dedicates this book to his parents, similarly afflicted as Ella and John. Everybody should have such a memorial from a son. ...more info
  • One of those books that stays with you
    LEISURE SEEKER is one of those books that stays with you, from which deep personal conundrums spring and linger: What will you do at the end of a life long lived when your physical circumstances undermine the luxuries of free will and personal decision? How does one remain at the helm of one's own life when the reality is they have little or no control left? I read an advance copy of this moving novel several months ago, yet I find myself still thinking about it and these subsequent dilemmas.

    John and Ella Robina are at the ends of their ropes --- literally and figuratively, mentally and physically. Married for almost 60 years, they have spent a large part of their adult lives traveling around the country in their trusty Leisure Seeker, a vintage camper with requisite harvest gold and avocado green d®¶cor. In the early days it gave them safe passage on family vacations to sites like Weeki Wachi, London Bridge and California. Later, they traveled with friends to picturesque lakes, mountains and even Florida to visit couples who have fled the icy winters of Michigan, their home state, for sunnier climes. Against their physician's advice ("[they] only want me to stick around so they can run their tests on me, poke me with their icy instruments, spot shadows inside of me. They've already done plenty of that") and their grown children's wishes ("it's really none of their business"), they have taken off down Route 66 one last time in an attempt to recapture a 1966 family trip to Disneyland. According to Ella, the family memory keeper, "It wasn't the last time we were there, but it was the best time."

    John is in that last lucid, capable stage of Alzheimer's. He's capable enough to pilot the Leisure Seeker through the many detours and inner city schisms that is today's Route 66, but not quite lucid enough to remember that his daughter is divorced, his best friend J.J. is dead and, in those illness-specific "sundowning" moments, a tacky pine-paneled motel room is not his own. "This is nice," says John. "Is this home?" To the 80-year-old woman riding beside him, his wife and lifelong partner, he asks, "Are you all right, Miss?" because her name and even identity escape him. Personal hygiene and social graces are no longer as important to John as locating his next hamburger or, unfortunately, checking to make sure his ailing wife has clambered into the camper before pulling off from the latest Stuckey's.

    Ella must leave the piloting to John as she has not driven in over 30 years, besides which the physical constraints resulting from an upcoming doctor-prescribed final date with metastasized breast cancer, advanced hypertension (stroke) and kidney failure precludes her from taking the wheel. Ella gets along with a cane (towards the end of the book, she gives in to her motorized You-Go), a wig (soon discarded), too many medicines to count (the pain is getting worse all the time) and a much-looked-forward-to nightly cocktail (which becomes two as her "discomfort" grows).

    Stopping at diners, barbeque joints and McDonalds along the way (always careful to pop a Pepcid first) and hitting all the requisite Route 66 museums, aforementioned pecan log emporiums and forlorn, forgotten "Must See's," John and Ella's days are punctuated by an evening campground ritual. They settle into side-by-side webbed lawn chairs and watch their life, projected via slide projector onto a sheet strung on the side of the Leisure Seeker, march by courtesy of John, the official family photographer. Random passersby pause from time to time to enjoy the show --- teenagers marveling at '60s fashions, young mothers and fathers sadly glimpsing a scene from their empty nested future, and right there reliving every glorious, faded Kodachrome moment with their ever gracious hosts.

    Within its atmosphere of gentle humor and melancholy, readers of THE LEISURE SEEKER will find themselves experiencing moments of sheer helplessness and terror that arise when people's faculties are less than intact. Ella herself says in the beginning that "between the two of us, we are one whole person." As the miles roll by, so too, it seems, does more and more of John's mental acuity and Ella's physical strength. Let me just say, to Michael Zadoorian's credit, that it is not clear until too late exactly where this trip is headed.

    Zadoorian uses a Ford Madox Ford quote to preface his novel: "The world is full of places to which I want to return." The realization upon putting this wistful story down, that comes unbidden to us as we age, is that there are places we would like to, and can, revisit. However, most of the reasons behind these desires lie more with returning to the exact moment in time when we first stood in that place. Just as John and Ella can no longer travel to the West Coast on Route 66 in its original entirety, neither can they recreate the vacations of yesterday --- when children were little, friends still alive and their own minds and bodies young and whole. Yet they remain good people, strong of character, humor intact and, above all, really great buddies with whom to take this wonderful journey.

    --- Reviewed by Jamie Layton...more info
  • Laugh out loud

    This is a wonderful laugh out loud book about two folks on vacation - their last vacation. My wife grabbed the book first and read it through laughing most of the way and said to add this to my review: "The Leisure Seeker is a laugh out loud ride down Rt 66 to Disneyland. John and Ella ignore their doctors and children and go on their last RV vacation. I found myself cheering them on. John has Alzheimer's, Ella has terminal cancer. The reader needs to be at least middle age to appreciate the humor. It would help to have been a caregiver to an elder too." You can see where I got the idea it was a laugh out loud book. Actually, as I was reading it my wife kept asking if I had laughed out loud yet and I suppose my reaction was a little different until later in the book when I did find myself laughing out loud. But watch out! Ella has some very straight forward things to say about some very difficult things and pulls no punches. When passing a Will Rogers memorial she says she never liked him. "A man that never met a man he didn't like wasn't trying hard enough". (Sorry if my quote isn't exact but we have already sent the book on to my mom and dad. This book has been written by an author who has been there. I also worry about how Disneyland might take this book. If lots of couples begin taking their last vacations heading to LA Disney management may have a problem on its hands.
    ...more info
  • I liked this novel a lot.
    The Leisure Seeker is funny, touching, real and endearing. Ella and husband John, who is losing his memory and suffering from the onset of senility, take off in their motor home for a vacation. Their children are worried and upset; Ella doesn't much care. She loves her children and grandchildren, of course, but her life with her husband is theirs and they are going to live it however they please.

    There is a lot of truth to John's condition. Senility can be frustrating, hurtful and scary to all concerned. That is what makes the novel heartfelt. Ella loses her temper at John's strange behavior that shows itself more frequently than not, but quickly softens and realizes it isn't her husband's fault. It's the fault of the disease.

    There is humor - Ella can be quirky when she wants to and doesn't have the excuse of senility to blame her behavior on. While on their trip, Ella recounts their past; the days when they and their children were young and on vacation. Family happenings - some sad, some happy but all events to which almost any reader can relate.

    John's disease tests the limits of along and loving relationship, something any of us could have to deal with in the future. Ella comes through with flying colors. This is the touching part, and the sad part. No one wants Ella and John to lose what they had, but does something more meaningful fill in the voids the loss of their youth leaves? I think so.

    I like the descriptions of the areas John and Ella pass through, or stop to enjoy. It brings back memories of my vacations with my parents. And - the descriptions are interesting.
    The Leisure Seeker is touching and most importantly a true story in every sense. The novel is achingly real and definitely a book worth reading.
    ...more info