Destination: Route 66
Book: The Leisure Seeker, A Novel, by Michael Zadorian
This new book about a road trip on Route 66 is not for everyone. If you want to think about aging and how to handle it; if you liked the movie Tuesdays with Morrie; if you think the elderly have a right to determine their own destiny–then dive right into The Leisure Seeker . If any of those things make you nervous, you may want to pass up Michael Zadorian‘s new book.
Before I give you the overview, which may sound entirely too serious, let me assure you that the book’s charm includes some laugh-out-loud humor, based on Ella’s feisty persona; frequent right-on-the-mark analyses of aging and medicine; and a terrific portrait of contemporary roadside America. Zadorian seems to have visited a lot of diners in order to draw an accurate picture of the variety of waitresses, out in country where “servers” haven’t been invented yet.
Near Gallup New Mexico, Ella says:
The vastness of the mesas, the stillness of all this stone soothes my wretched body, makes me feel part of the earth. The angling light reveals the character of the rock, how every inch is mottled and etched with time. I look at my arm, run my fingers across the million tiny folds that cover my skin like endless lines of faded calligraphy. There’s something written in both places, but I can’t read either.
The concept is simple. Mostly we read a monologue delivered by Ella, the wife who is afflicted with so many things that she likens her finish to a horse race between ailments. She pops little blue ills for her frequent “discomfort” which is what the medical team calls pain. She has decided that she and John, her husband of 60 years, are going to drive the length of Route 66 in their Leisure Seeker camper, and make a side trip to Disney Land. John is the driver-in-chief who also happens to have detached from the world. Although she never calls it Alzheimer’s, we can see what’s going on.
When they stop at night, they frequently put up a slide projector and watch family pictures from long-ago vacations. That and occasional calls to their scared and disapproving son and daughter, fill us in on the couple’s history. Despite setbacks, Ella plows on, indomitable–the only fear she has is being alone, but she still has John, and thank goodness, he has her.
I can’t help thinking that if he had not self-destructed long ago, Kerouac would have enjoyed just such a road trip. Ella’s life lessons fill this slim book to overflowing, and she damned well does what she pleases. Zadorian is so skilled a writer that I could swear I have met Ella and John–not to mention the waitresses.
Disclaimer on the Leisure Seeker: The books publicist made the book available for review. And do you like the little “look inside” widget? That came from the Harper Collins pages.
So are you a Rt. 66 afficiando, or are you pretty much unaware of its role in American transportation history? Fess up. Either way. (And remember, when you leave a comment, you can leave your Twitter address as well. You can follow Michael Zadorian on Twitter @MikeZadorian. You can follow ME on Twitter @pen4hire)