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Friday, Dec 14, 2018
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Be Hip To This Tip About California Trip

"The Leisure Seeker," by Michael Zadoorian (William Morrow. $25) Ella and John Robina pack up the RV ("our little Leisure Seeker camper van") and head west one more time. Or more exactly, Ella decides not to continue the treatments for her cancer, and she packs up and plans this trip along old Route 66 to Disneyland for herself and her husband. "You yourself might ask: Is this the best idea? Two down-on-their-luck geezers - one with more health problems than a developing 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." Nevertheless, it is Ella's best idea: despite the Alzheimer's, John is still an excellent driver, and in all the years of family vacations, they rarely took the slow, scenic route west. So against the advice of doctors and their kids, Ella and John hit the highway.
After all, Ella muses, "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." On the road, Ella reflects on the years she and John have shared "a completely unremarkable life," with two children (now in their 50s), a nice house in the suburbs, John's career and then retirement from the auto industry, and the occasional vacation in this little Leisure Seeker. Despite the increasing "discomfort" Ella feels as the miles pass, and despite the growing anxiety of the children, the trip offers adventure and clarity for both Ella and John: "For a moment I am so happy I could cry. This is exactly the sort of thing that makes traveling wonderful for me, the reason I defied everyone. The two of us together like we have always been, not saying anything, not doing anything special, just on vacation. 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." "The Leisure Seeker" is 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, like this: "What is truly amazing is that before you know it, sixty years go by and you can remember maybe eight or nine important events, along with a thousand meaningless ones. How can that be?" Author Michael Zadoorian (his first novel, "Second Hand," shares a Detroit background) has captured an American icon in the forthright and feisty Ella; it's no surprise to hear that the movie rights have already been snapped up. Read it before it becomes the next big thing.

Amy Smith Linton of Tampa is a freelance writer.

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