The Leisure Seeker
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The Leisure Seeker

4.0 107
by Michael Zadoorian
     
 

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In Michael Zadoorian's The Leisure Seeker the Robinas have shared a wonderful life for more than sixty years. Now in their eighties, Ella suffers from cancer and 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

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Overview

In Michael Zadoorian's The Leisure Seeker the Robinas have shared a wonderful life for more than sixty years. Now in their eighties, Ella suffers from cancer and 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 and 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, you can go back for seconds—even when everyone says you can't.

Editorial Reviews

Marjorie Hart
“Both achingly sad and intensely romantic, this unforgettable story of a last honeymoon hooked me from the first page. The Leisure Seeker depicts the heartrending choices of a loving couple, illuminated by events both past and present. I couldn’t put it down.”
Elmore Leonard
“Zadoorian’s pace is deceptive, it’s restful. But unexpected scenes jump out at you. Come to the end and you’ll say ‘Oh my God.’”
Chris Jussel
“Second Hand is a wonderful book about life at yard sales, garage sales, and the like, where many antiques begin their journey ‘up the ladder’ into the upper retail realms.”
Pagan Kennedy
“Zadoorian has done no less than re-invent the American road story. These Easy Riders—drugged-up on meds, desperately in need of their naps, and determined to enjoy every last moment—are some of the most memorable characters I’ve ever met on the page.”
Bob Morris
“A couple of terminal senior citizens skip the end stage of hospitals and anxious children, step on the gas and stoically hightail it out of town…Death foretold, absolutely, but also the delight and adventure that comes late in life. The Dangerous Book for Seniors!”
The Hour
“Road trip novels are as common as snow in Siberia…but Zadoorian adds some refreshing detours to the genre in his second novel…told from Ella’s mordantly funny point-of-view…the gripping conclusion deserves to be read, not told.”
Carol Schneck (Schuler Books & Music)
“Zadoorian’s offbeat humor and obvious sympathy for his characters takes a story that could have been grim in the wrong hands and turns it into one of the most delightful books I’ve read in years.”
starred review Booklist
“Ella is a remarkable creation...Her middle-aged children’s panicked demands that the couple return home will resonate with any adult who has feared for a parent’s well-being. he Leisure Seeker is pretty much like life itself: joyous, painful, moving, tragic, mysterious, and not to be missed.”
Orlando Sentinel
“This is no golden-age “Thelma and Louise” story. Zadoorian, like his protagonists, sticks to the slow lane, and the pace and sense of inevitability surrounding the Robinas’ journey is almost reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” But there’s wry humor…along with a host of tender moments.”
Tampa Tribune
“A wonderful novel, poignant and salty and full of those small, clear truths that become important when one draws close to the end of the road…Author Michael Zadoorian has captured an American icon in the forthright and feisty Ella…Read it before it becomes the next big thing.”
Daily News (Michigan)
“An evocative tale….Zadoorian mixes some dark humor with issues that touch nearly everybody. This reviewer, usually hooked on crime novels and sports, found The Leisure Seeker hard to put down.”
Escapees
“An unforgettable book…a poignant, touching and funny adventure of two people setting off in their 1978 Leisure Seeker that takes them off to relive some cherished memories and allows them to take their lives in their own hands for the final years of life ‘s journey. I loved this book.”
Sydney Morning Herald
“Pick of the Week: This book evokes with great insight, tenderness and humour the absurdities and indignities of old age but also its freedoms and consolations.”
Lansing State Journal
“A highly unusual, quirky treat…it would make a dandy movie for those who enjoyed The Notebook. Sad and funny, heart-warming and heart-breaking, Zadoorian’s mesmerizing tale is definitely one to savor, deftly told by a clever, witty master craftsman.”
Flint Journal
“The humor is dark, the story poignant (for instance, Ella describes their RV as a “recreational sarcophagus”) and the journey so descriptive that it makes you want to take the trip yourself.”
Sydney Sun Herald
“This is a sad, sweet love letter to a fading America, elevated beyond its simple premise by its sharp humour about aging and a quietly shocking ending…it’s hard to think of a more purely likeable novel in recent times.”
Detroit Free Press
“One of the standards for a book is: Would I recommend it to friends?…I would recommend Michael Zadoorian’s “The Leisure Seeker” to almost anyone. It’s a beautifully simple story…: readable, frequently funny, sometimes all too realistically poignant…This is Detroit-area writer Zadoorian’s second book; watch him; he’s going places.”
USA Today
“Michael Zadoorian’s bittersweet story about two runaways who are in their 80s and in failing health could be a lovely film… I could see Clint Eastwood and Shirley MacLaine in the lead roles…Call it Kerouac-lite. It’s On the Road with shorter sentences and less drugs and sex.”
BookPage
“Michael Zadoorian serves up an affectionate, clear-eyed peek at a pair of self styled “down–on–their–luck geezers” who just aren’t ready to go gentle into that good night…Here’s to hoping that we all handle our last days so well.”
Melbourne Herald Sun
“A funny, bittersweet and courageous story as they cross the country, stopping at forgotten roadside attractions, watching old slides and remembering their life and love. In a word: touching. ”
Los Angeles Times
“Faces head-on what the parents (John and Ella) have to deal with when faced with painful death…Zadoorian is true to these geezers. He draws them in their most honest light…I hoped for a book that would make me laugh during these tight times, and I was rewarded.”
A Selection of Barnes & Noble Recommends
This authentic last-hurrah love story is so heartfelt and bittersweet that it will linger in the mind long after you've read its final page.

In this senior citizens' version of On the Road, an aging couple -- one with cancer, the other with Alzheimer's -- head west towards a Disneyland sunset. Ignoring their children's pleas, Ella and John Robina leave the Detroit suburbs and take to the road in their Winnebago for one grand, improvised last vacation. Along the way, this loving couple encounter a full menagerie of eccentrics; roadside attractions and predators; and poignant if fleeting memories.
Publishers Weekly

In this affecting road novel, an elderly married couple leave their Detroit home and take off in their camper for one last adventure together. Ella Robina has "more health problems than a third world country," and her husband, John, is suffering from progressive dementia. Despite protests from their adult children and doctors, Ella and John hit the road and head west to Disneyland. By day, they stop off at cheese-ball tourist attractions, and at night they relive old memories by watching slide shows of their previous family vacations. Along the way, they receive unexpected aid from a rueful goth teenager, outmaneuver some roadside predators, get stopped by the police and consider running for it, and have sex. The ultimate decision Ella makes might seem life affirming to some and a callous betrayal to others, but it's impossible to deny that Ella's wise, feisty voice turns what could be a sappy melodrama into an authentic and funny love story. (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
An elderly couple face down death by taking one last, thoroughly unauthorized vacation. The future holds nothing but shorter, bleaker days for both Ella and John Robina. Ella has refused chemotherapy and radiation treatment for her cancer. John suffers from Alzheimer's. So, after a lifetime spent worrying about how to keep body and soul and their family together, they sneak out of the Detroit suburb of Madison Heights, bound via Route 66 for Disneyland. Along the way they encounter smiling waitresses, variously helpful gas jockeys, road thieves and a particularly nice man with some obscene tattoos. Ella tosses her wig out the window, lets John order as many roadside hamburgers as he wants, treasures the odd morning moments when he's lucid, fondly shares memories of their life together with the help of evening slide shows, doses herself with painkillers and dispenses nuggets of dry-eyed wisdom. They proceed in good order through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, phoning their daughter Cindy and their son Kevin from time to time but ignoring the pleas and threats intended to bring them home. John is content to drive for hours without saying anything or knowing where he is, but Ella is clearly a woman on a mission, and long before their Leisure Seeker reaches Anaheim, you'll know what that mission is. Zadoorian (Second Hand, 2000) asks readers to accept the ending on very much the same terms that Ella accepts her life. A bittersweet fable of the golden years likely to offer consolation to readers who've ever known anyone old, or have plans to get old themselves. Agent: Sally van Haitsma/The Castiglia Agency
(Schuler Books & Music) - Carol Schneck
"Zadoorian’s offbeat humor and obvious sympathy for his characters takes a story that could have been grim in the wrong hands and turns it into one of the most delightful books I’ve read in years."
Booklist
"Ella is a remarkable creation...Her middle-aged children’s panicked demands that the couple return home will resonate with any adult who has feared for a parent’s well-being. he Leisure Seeker is pretty much like life itself: joyous, painful, moving, tragic, mysterious, and not to be missed."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061671791
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
02/09/2010
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
264,092
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.73(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Leisure Seeker

Chapter One

Michigan

We are tourists.

I have recently come to terms with this. My husband and I were never the kind who traveled to expand our minds. We traveled to have fun—Weeki Wachee, Gatlinburg, South of the Border, Lake George, Rock City, Wall Drug. We have seen swimming pigs and horses, a Russian palace covered with corn, young girls underwater drinking Pepsi-Cola from the seven-ounce bottle, London Bridge in the middle of a desert, a cycling cockatoo riding a tightrope.

I guess we always knew.

This, our last trip, was appropriately planned at the last minute, the luxury of the retiree. It is one that I'm glad I decided we take, although everybody (doctors, children) forbade us to go. "I strongly, strongly advise against any type of travel, Ella," said Dr. Tomaszewski, one of the seemingly hundreds of physicians currently attending to me, when I hinted that my husband and I might take a trip. When I casually mentioned the idea of even a weekend getaway to my daughter, she used a tone that one would normally reserve for a disobedient puppy. ("No!")

But John and I needed a vacation, more than we've ever needed one before. Besides, the doctors only want me to stay 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 while the children are only concerned with our well-being, it's still really none of their business. Durable power of attorney doesn't mean you get to run the whole show.

You yourself might ask: Is this the best idea? Two down-on-their-luck geezers, onewith more health problems than a third world country, the other so senile that he doesn't even know what day it is—taking a cross-country road trip? Don't be stupid. Of course it's not a good idea.

There's a story about how Mr. Ambrose Bierce, whose scary tales I enjoyed as a young girl, decided when he got to his seventies that he would simply shove off to Mexico. He wrote, "Naturally, it is possible, even probable, that I shall not return. These being strange countries, in which things happen." He also wrote: "It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs." Speaking as someone who is acquainted with all three of those, I heartily agree with old Ambrose.

Put simply, we had nothing to lose. So I decided to take action. Our little Leisure Seeker camper van was packed and ready. We have kept it that way ever since retirement. So after assuring my children that a vacation was indeed out of the question, I kidnapped my husband, John, and we stole off, headed for Disneyland. That's where we took the kids, so we like it better than the other one. After all, at this point in our lives, we are more like children than ever. Especially John.

From the Detroit area, where we've lived all our lives, we make our way west across the state. It's a lovely trip so far, peaceful and steady. The air stream at my vent window creates a satin whoosh of white noise as the miles tug us from our old selves. Minds clear, aches diminish, worries evaporate, at least for a few hours. John doesn't speak at all but seems very content to drive. He's having one of his quiet days.

After about three hours, we stop for our first night in a small resort town that fancies itself an "artists' colony." As you enter the town proper, you pass, shrouded among the evergreens, a painter's palette the size of a children's wading pool, each daub of paint neatly dotted with a colored electric bulb that illuminates its corresponding hue. Next to it, a sign:

Saugatuck

This is where we spent our honeymoon almost sixty years ago (Mrs. Miller's Boarding House, long since burned down). We rode the Greyhound bus. That was our honeymoon: taking the dog to western Michigan. It was all we could afford, but it was exciting enough for us. (Ah, the advantages of being easily amused.)

After checking in at the trailer court, we two walk around town a bit, as much as I'm able, to enjoy what's left of the afternoon. I'm very pleased to be here again with my husband so many years later. It's been at least thirty years since we last visited. I'm surprised to find the town has not changed much—lots of confectioners, art galleries, ice cream parlors, and old-time shops. The park is where I remember it. Many of the early buildings are still standing and in good shape. I'm surprised that the town's fathers didn't feel the need to tear everything down and make it new. They must understand that when people are on vacation, they just want to return to a place that feels familiar, that still feels like it's theirs, even if just for a short time.

John and I sit on a bench on Main Street where the autumn air is heavy with the scent of warm fudge. We watch families pass by, wearing shorts and sweatshirts, eating ice cream cones, chattering away, their laughter low-pitched and lackadaisical, the unwound voices of people on vacation.

"This is nice," says John, his first words since we got here. "Is this home?" "No, but it is nice," I say.

John is always asking if somewhere is home. Especially in the last year or so, when things started getting worse. The memory problems started about four years back, though there were signs of it earlier. It's been a gradual process with him. (My problems arose much more recently.) I've been told that we're lucky, yet it doesn't feel that way. With his mind, first the corners of the blackboard were slowly erased, then the edges, and the edges of edges, creating a circle that grew smaller and smaller, before finally disappearing into itself. What is left are only smudges of recollection here and there, places where the eraser did not completely do its job, reminiscences that I hear again and again. Every once in a while, he knows enough to realize that he has forgotten much of our life together, but these moments happen less and less these days. It cheers me on the rare occasion when he is angered by his forgetfulness because it means he's still on this side, here with me. Most of the time, he's not. It's all right. I am the keeper of the memories.

The Leisure Seeker. Copyright © by Michael Zadoorian. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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What People are saying about this

Chris Jussel
“Second Hand is a wonderful book about life at yard sales, garage sales, and the like, where many antiques begin their journey ‘up the ladder’ into the upper retail realms.”
Elmore Leonard
“Zadoorian’s pace is deceptive, it’s restful. But unexpected scenes jump out at you. Come to the end and you’ll say ‘Oh my God.’”
Pagan Kennedy
“Zadoorian has done no less than re-invent the American road story. These Easy Riders—drugged-up on meds, desperately in need of their naps, and determined to enjoy every last moment—are some of the most memorable characters I’ve ever met on the page.”
Bob Morris
“A couple of terminal senior citizens skip the end stage of hospitals and anxious children, step on the gas and stoically hightail it out of town…Death foretold, absolutely, but also the delight and adventure that comes late in life. The Dangerous Book for Seniors!”
Marjorie Hart
“Both achingly sad and intensely romantic, this unforgettable story of a last honeymoon hooked me from the first page. The Leisure Seeker depicts the heartrending choices of a loving couple, illuminated by events both past and present. I couldn’t put it down.”
Carol Schneck
“Zadoorian’s offbeat humor and obvious sympathy for his characters takes a story that could have been grim in the wrong hands and turns it into one of the most delightful books I’ve read in years.”

Read More

Meet the Author

Michael Zadoorian is the author of Second Hand and The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit: Stories.

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Leisure Seeker 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 105 reviews.
whiteoak More than 1 year ago
Everyone knows or has known a couple similar to John and Ella. I am still astounded as to how Michael found Ella's voice. What a wonderful book! I laughed, I cried, but mostly I smiled. I can't stop recommending this book. Thank you Michael.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A friend recommended this book afetr I entertained her with comical stories about my adventures as the primary caregiver for my Mom, who suffers from dementia. This quick and easy read was thoroughly engaging and entertaining and reaffirmed my theory to find the joy in whatever time we have with our loved ones who no longer keep step with the rest of the world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was hard to put down. I laughed, I cried, and didn't want it to come to an end. We all can see parts of ourselves in the characters, and only hope to have the love these two share. I will never forget this story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I understood this story, as I am a cancer survivor, and have lost 2 loved ones to Dimentia/Alzheimers. This was such a beautiful story, and spot on. Every young person should read this. I hope I go out as gracefully and lovingly as this couple. I will be looking for more from this author!!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As I am the age of the main characters, I could relate to much of what they were experiencing. I'm not sure I would have chosen the solution she did as I'm not sure I would have been brave enough. But for a couple who have been married for so many years and the health problems they had, it was a beautiful ending of a loving marriage.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed the voice of Ella and her trip with her husband.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
itsagoldielife More than 1 year ago
So real. I was right there with them on this trip of their life. I won't forget this book for a very long time. Look forward to having a discussion with friends when they have completed the read. If you don't understand how you might feel about illness or old age, if you don't understand how your parent behave, or if you are bewildered about the behavior of your grandparent. Read and understand.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some good points in the book but i honestly would not highly recommend.
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Mary Schuster More than 1 year ago
Short book but a good read. Happy, sad, funny.zz
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