Alzheimer’s Book Club: A Review of The Leisure Seeker

In December, I was blessed to have been introduced to a new piece of fiction that addresses Alzheimer's disease when a book club I host with a few colleagues was selected as the book we would be discussing between Christmas and New Year's.

I love reading - to the tune of 47 books read in 2021 - it's my escape, my happy place, my way of putting life into context, and probably even my meditation each day.

I posted about this book on my bookish Instagram and described how it was like two of my worlds colliding, the Alzheimer's world and my book club world. It was fabulous and difficult all at the same time.

Synoposis

"The Leisure Seeker" by Michael Zadoorian is a book about a husband and wife in their later years who have escaped the confines of doctors' orders and children's worries to have one last vacation in their beloved RV.

Liberated from their roles as caregiver-who-has-cancer and man-who-has-Alzheimer's, the couple is able to find joy in the now as they revive old habits and rituals from their long-lived lives. Filled with the shenanigans that everyone is thinking could happen, this book captured moments of lucidity, moments of weakness, and moments where our main character, Ella, grapples with what comes next.

My personal opinion: The book was beautifully heartbreaking as only being human can be.

Depicting Alzheimer's

As I've discussed in other posts, cultural depictions of Alzheimer's are an important part of advocacy and spreading the word. As an example, I wonder how many people saw Alzheimer's first depicted in the television show "Grey's Anatomy"?

I found this book to be a pretty credible source in terms of depicting the disease. A few passages really struck me, such as:
"With his mind, first the corners of the blackboard were slowly erased, then the edges, and the edges of edges, creating a circle that grew smaller and smaller, before finally disappearing into itself. What is left are only smudges of recollection here and there, places where the eraser did not completely do its job, reminiscences that I hear again and again."

"I know that somewhere inside of his head, floating around, are all these memories of our life together. I refuse to believe that they are gone."

When I read these, I felt like Zandoorian had put words to my experience.

Uniquely reflective of the Alzheimer's experience

There were more fun parts with elements of Ella's personality. For example, "This young man obviously has me mixed up with some old lady who doesn't cuss like a longshoreman." If that's not how I'm described as an old lady I don’t want to be!

There also were the pangs of embarrassment and out-of-control-ness that flooded my body with familiarity when John, Ella's husband, lost his cool at a unique stop along the way. There also was the sense of dread that overwhelmed me when she woke up and he wasn't around.

And uniquely so the relief when she found John in the exact position I once found my Poppop after his own escape act – sitting calmly and enjoying an ice cream.

There were also those moments that I felt the author wanted to give to us, as a community, in John's moments of lucidity. While they are portrayed as brief interludes as a prisoner within his own mind coming to the forefront in the dawn of a new morning, I'm afraid real-life is far crueler.

A world that exists in fiction

Ultimately, it was a pleasure to read "The Leisure Seeker." As a work of fiction, it is impeccably deft at describing the feelings that can arise among those who care about someone who has Alzheimer's.

One may be able to follow Ella as she explores the feelings of her own mortality alongside her life partner. However, it is important to note that, as a work of fiction, it provides sands over the edges, blunts the blade, eliminates the consequences to provide a world that only exists in fiction.

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