THE LEISURE SEEKER
By Michael Zadoorian (William Morrow, 272 pages, $24.99)
If this novel isn't made into a movie -- maybe a Hallmark television movie -- I'll eat my hat. It has all the elements: a lovable old couple who argue and quibble from dawn to dusk but who clearly can't live without each other. A road trip. An inevitable ending to fill your eyes with tears.
John and Ella Robino have been married 50 years. Now he's in the early stages of dementia, and she has cancer. Time is running out. But they're not going to go gently into that good night; nope, they're going to go to Disneyland.
Their boring and unimaginative children are deeply opposed to this trip. The children's tidy vision is of nurses, and hospice, and a clean, quiet slide into darkness. But Ella has enough gumption for all of them (John's is rather diminished, due to his Alzheimer's), so she gives the kids the slip and she and John hit the road in a big old motor home.
Like any good road book, they have adventures and travails galore, but none of the dangerous situations pack much tension. You just know they're going to get back on the road and get to Disneyland for the climax, and you know what the climax is going to be. Still, when it comes, there are surprises, and despite the predictability of it all, a surprising amount of poignancy.
LAURIE HERTZEL, BOOKS EDITOR
by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin's Press, 400 pages, $25.95 )
Hey, girlfriends, haven't you read this book already? It's the one about the overweight woman who is jealous of her younger sister's good looks and good fortune with men. On second thought, it's the one about the mysterious newcomer to the small town who sweeps the town's beauty pageant princess off her feet. Or maybe it's the one about the boy who walks around with a bad attitude because he never got to know his father, who is in prison, and the beautiful well-to-do girl who falls in love with him.
Any of those seem familiar? Kristin Hannah's latest novel has all those story lines, and it will seem like something you've read before. But I still found myself wrapped up in the characters' lives and alternately cheering them on or booing their stupid choices. Even the ending will seem predicable and familiar, but I bet you will read all the way there and regret that you have to imagine the rest.
JUDY ROMANOWICH SMITH, NEWS DESIGNER