The Leisure Seeker

The Leisure Seeker

by Michael Zadoorian
The Leisure Seeker

The Leisure Seeker

by Michael Zadoorian


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Now a major motion picture starring Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland, coming January 2018 from Sony Pictures Classics

Official Selection

Toronto Film Festival

Venice Film Festival

The Leisure Seeker is pretty much like life itself: joyous, painful, moving, tragic, mysterious, and not to be missed.”—Booklist, starred review

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061671791
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/09/2010
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 260,499
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.73(d)

About the Author

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

Read an Excerpt

The Leisure Seeker

Chapter One


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:


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.

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.”

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