“The Leisure Seeker” by Michael Zadoorian

Genre: Romantic TragicomedyThe Leisure Seeker
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pub. Date: January 2009

Recently, I watched the 2017 movie “The Leisure Seeker” although the film was syrupy, I enjoyed this feel-good, end-of-life film. I learned that the movie was based on a book, which I decided to read. The novel is grittier and more realistic than the film. Still, it is also a delightful read. The author somehow managed to find the perfect balance of sad and touching moments mixed with the right amount of humor so the book isn’t depressing. Instead, it has a down-to-earth accepting of reality feel with likable and spirited protagonists.

As in the film, the future holds nothing but shorter, bleaker days for both Ella and John Robina. Ella has refused chemotherapy and radiation treatment for her stage four cancer. John suffers from Alzheimer’s. (I guess I should mention here that Ella has promised him that she will never put him in a nursing home or let him be a burden to their family). So, after a lifetime spent worrying about their children, who now have children of their own, they sneak out of their Detroit suburb against their doctors and kids’ wishes for one last trip in their cranky old Winnebago, which they christened “The Leisure Seeker” decades earlier.

They set off on one last final journey. In the film, their destination is Key West, Florida, to allow John to finally visit Ernest Hemingway’s historic home. In the novel, they are headed to Disneyland in California, a place they often took their children when they were young. Disneyland is a better fit for how they lived their lives. The story of their marriage unfolds as they travel. They decide to go the long way via the Route 66. As they travel the famous route, Zadoorian finds many ways to make his readers smile. Such as when they stop at all of 66’s quirky landmarks as well as the endless Route 66 diners, which all display the same photos of Marylyn Monroe and James Dean. While this well-written, character-driven novel is packed with hard truths about a long-married couple heading towards their eventual death, it still manages to be both funny and poignant at the same time. I preferred the novel to the film. But then again I usually do.

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