The Leisure Seeker--Michael Zadoorian
Sometimes you're browsing through the fiction in the library and for no reason at all a book falls off the shelve and into your hands. You look into it, evaluating, wondering. You're caught by a sentence on the first page, or perhaps your eye crosses a paragraph further on in the novel and you're caught.
I have many such experiences, but, like most blind dates, they don't work out. You take them home for a leisurely read and you wonder, "Now what exactly did I see in this book?" I bring home piles of books every week. In fact, I am single-handedly responsible for keeping the library funded in my county--I keep those books and other materials moving in and out at a pace defying imagination. Bring home two bags with thirty potential candidates and wind up returning sixteen of them the next week. The others age well on my to-be-read shelf, but eventually they too make it back to the library--mostly unread.
Michael Zadoorian's book was one such blind date that worked it--spectacularly. I found something of interest while at the library--got the book home and devoured it in one evening. It just worked for me.
The story of an older couple--the woman with metastatic cancer and the man with Alzheimer's, but not completely lost to it yet. The woman decides against conventional wisdom, doctor's orders, and pleading children that what she and her husband need is a break--so John and Ella load up the Leisure Seeker and set out from Detroit to explore what is left of route 66--heading from its starting point to its end in California.
So yes, it's a geezer's road-trip novel and despite all that is working against it, it succeeds, beautifully. You become involved with John and Ella and you recognize that some of the heartbreakingly beautiful things that Ella realizes along the way would serve us well in life today. The novel is about love, about the extremes of love and hope, and about coming to terms with who you are and where you are in life. There is so much that is so beautiful about the novel that I can even forgive the ending--which actually surprised me--surprised me so much that I had to wonder whether or not it was true to the characters themselves. It was certainly true to explicitly stated intent, but. . . I'm not quite certain about whether or not these characters would do that.
That said, the problem I have with the end of the novel did not undo the delight I discovered in the rest of it. Join John and Ella on their many adventures through the American West and see if they aren't delightful if somewhat curmudgeonly and occasionally quite disagreeable companions.