Riding on the open road with wind blowing in her face, Ella Robina doesn’t have a care in the world.
Aside from remembering to take her pain medication. And convincing the kids she’s fine.
And ensuring her husband’s Alzheimer’s doesn’t interfere with his ability to drive across the country in an RV.
Then again, that’s what you get when you vow to defy popular advice — and the passage of time.
So goes the premise of Michael Zadoorian’s “The Leisure Seeker.”
The novel tells the story of John and Ella Robina, a pair of 80-somethings who leave their home in suburban Detroit determined to travel Route 66 toward Disneyland in their ’78 Leisure Seeker RV.
But this is not just any trip.
Ella’s a cancer patient who has declined treatment. John — the trip’s driver — has Alzheimer’s and can’t remember his wife’s name for much of the journey.
“The Leisure Seeker” is told through a lens that is at times philosophical and, frankly, somewhat sad.
Throughout the trip, narrator Ella tries desperately to relish life’s happiest aspects.
Zadoorian juxtaposes the slow, detour-rich nature of forgotten Route 66 with the couple’s subtle race against their life clocks.
“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,” Ella notes early in the novel.
Even with its focus on aging and death, the novel is just as much a testament to living life to its fullest, cherishing memories and embracing adventure.
With their futures uncertain, the couple thrives on fearlessness.
They indulge in fast food. They drink beer with tattoo-clad 30-somethings.
In one particularly poignant scene, cancer-stricken Ella throws her wig out the RV’s window and offers this reaction:
“You spend your life so worried about what others think, when in reality, people mostly don’t think. On the few occasions when they do, true, it is often something bad, but one has to at least admire the fact that they’re thinking at all.”
All the while, they’re anticipating the trip’s final destination: Disneyland, the happiest place on earth.
Will it cure their ailments? No.
As they approach the world of Mickey Mouse ears, John floats in and out of lucidity and Ella battles with growing levels of physical discomfort.
Yet Disneyland marks a strange constant. It’s a place rich in memories, a landmark that hasn’t changed all that much since the couple took their children on family vacations.
And with its focus on Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, the theme park seems a little less like the end of the road.
Contact Sonya Sorich at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-571-8516.