“The glow of memory”: a journey and a farewell at the same time

Sigismund von dobschutz

the novel "the glow of memory" reads as honestly as an account of their experiences, as oppressively and poignantly as a diary by the american writer michael zadoorian, which was published in the u.S. Back in 2009.
The german translation by elfriede peschel was only published in december, just in time for the film of the same name starring helen mirren and donald sutherland. "The leisure seeker, the original title, was only zadoorian’s second novel in 2009.
"Leisure seeker is the brand of their oldtimer motorhome, with which the married couple ella and john robina set out on their last journey – a trip along the dilapidated route 66 from chicago to santa monica. Ella is terminally ill, husband john suffers from dementia. Against the wishes of the doctors and their two children, they both go on a journey. On the campsites, the slide projector they brought with them gives them the "glow of memory" at night, when the two oldsters share their "greatest hits of the robinas" from a time long past – a time when they were still traveling together as young parents with small children.
The journey is also a farewell to life. Because ella, who dedicates her honest and unsparing report to us readers, is aware of her short remaining life time. She starts the trip, she says, with "more health problems than a third world country. But that is precisely why the doomed woman defiantly dares to take this trip in her familiar mobile home: "we have nothing to lose." Doctors like to save people, she says to herself, "but when it comes to someone who is 80 years old, what is there to save??"
Qualender is the feeling of degradation by her adult children: when they learn of the parents’ departure, they are first stunned, then enraged, want to bring the parents back immediately and contact the federal police. But ella refuses: "being old is not against the law – at least not yet."
On the journey, ella decides where to go, where to stop, where to spend the night. Husband john with "valid driver’s license lives on the steering wheel. While we readers experience ella’s feelings every hour, with john we remain only observers. What the dementia patient thinks, whether he thinks anything at all, we don’t find out. Only sometimes do we hear that he remembers details from his early marriages. But sometimes he doesn’t even remember the name of his wife, to whom he has been married for 60 years.
"The glow of memory" is not one of the currently popular, nice novels about lively seniors with reference to a self-determined life of old people. Because ella and john really don’t just have nice days. Many a time they have needed help. Often ella even doubts whether they will reach santa monica at all. But it is precisely these less gentle experiences, which author michael zadoorian has his ella describe glibly and mostly with dry humor, that are the really worth reading passages of this altogether quite unusual, and therefore unique novel.