Monday, July 26, 2010

The Leisure Seeker

It all started because I was avoiding reading The Scarlet Pimpernel.  Not that I mind reading classic literature, I just bought this weird edition from Amazon that I'm finding hard to read.  The font is unpleasant and every single sentence is practically a new paragraph and it's all weird and stuff.  Not the story, the actual book is weird.  And the intro says that all of this publisher's works are free online, so I didn't have to spend $10 on a book I may or may not like.  It irked me so I was avoiding it and decided to read something else.  Now I'm avoiding playing Super Mario Brothers on the Wii because it keeps kicking my can and even though it was a Father's Day present for my husband, it's starting to make me insane.  The product of these two avoidances is a post about The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian.  Aren't you glad to know that?

John and Ella Robina decide to take a cross country trip on their Leisure Seeker RV, from Detroit to Disneyland.  John and Ella are also in their 80s and have terminal illnesses.  John has Alzheimer's, but is not so advanced that he can't drive, which is good because Ella doesn't drive at all.  Ella has terminal cancer and has opted to not have any treatments and instead drag her husband on this last trip across the country.  John doesn't really know what is going on, he just drives and stops and performs the tasks that are so second nature to him that Alzheimer's hasn't robbed it from him yet.  Their kids are apoplectic that their parents are doing something so risky in their states of health.  Ella doesn't care what they or their doctors think. 

Told from Ella's perspective, she gives flashbacks along the way of their lives together for nearly sixty years.  It's sweet to read how they fell in love, their kids' childhoods, their friends over the years, etc.  What isn't sweet is the mouth on this old lady.  Man, she swears like a sailor.  John isn't any better.  When he's not lucid and having a harder time, he's angry and swearing and all sorts of scary.  They carp at each other and then the next moment being kind and gentle.  It's weird.  Other than that, I can imagine how anyone who has been married for this long would enjoy reminiscing and chatting on a road trip together. Their evenings together watching slides was especially nice, learning more about them and their life.

It's heart-breaking to experience Ella's frustration at losing her husband one memory at a time.  Alzheimer's is a cruel disease.  My grandmother had it when I was a teenager and I remember thinking that she was slipping away from us.  Ella's gradual decline mostly includes searing pain that she self-medicates with lots of narcotics.  And alcohol.  Oh my, scary amounts of booze.  Frankly, I was frightened for the both of them, that John would disappear sometime when Ella wasn't looking or that Ella would overdose and leave her husband behind to fend for himself when he may not be able to tell anyone his last name.  I kept reading to see what would happen, but it was hard to get through at times. 

Some of their experiences on the road and paths they cross with different people were interesting and engaging, but mostly this story made me sad and frustrated.  Why couldn't John and Ella enjoy the time they have left with their kids and grandkids?  Why a road trip to a place that they wouldn't even be able to enjoy that much?  It felt like a desperate whim of Ella's, which I guess it was.  The other part I didn't like was the ending.  Zadoorian gave plenty of hints about how he was going to end the book, but it still felt like a unpleasant surprise.  I thought I was was bracing myself for the ending, but I was still startled.  I'm not sure how else it could have ended though, so it's not like I have some super awesome insight on how the author could have done it differently.  I just don't know if I'm all that glad I read it.

I've learned my lesson.  Note to self: just read The Scarlet Pimpernel, for cryin' in the mud. 

1 comment:

  1. For cryin' in the mud... I like it. Thanks for the warning/review. It sounds like an interesting book with good character development, but I like happy endings.