The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
Published: October 2nd 2012 by Knopf
Genre: Book club, Biography Memoir
That’s the question Will Schwalbe asks his mother, Mary Anne, as they sit in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2007, Mary Anne returned from a humanitarian trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan suffering from what her doctors believed was a rare type of hepatitis. Months later she was diagnosed with a form of advanced pancreatic cancer, which is almost always fatal, often in six months or less.
This is the inspiring true story of a son and his mother, who start a “book club” that brings them together as her life comes to a close. Over the next two years, Will and Mary Anne carry on conversations that are both wide-ranging and deeply personal, prompted by an eclectic array of books and a shared passion for reading. Their list jumps from classic to popular, from poetry to mysteries, from fantastic to spiritual. The issues they discuss include questions of faith and courage as well as everyday topics such as expressing gratitude and learning to listen. Throughout, they are constantly reminded of the power of books to comfort us, astonish us, teach us, and tell us what we need to do with our lives and in the world. Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying.
This month’s book club pick, in celebration of our one year anniversary, was The End of Your Life Book Club. In addition to being our one year anniversary book, it was my first book I read on my new, and first ever, Kindle! But back to the book…
It may bring tears to your eyes
It may bring a greater understanding
I got lost in the book
I got teary eyed
I had to pause at times just to think
And I appreciated that I read it
It is made known first thing that the mother in the book is sick… you very quickly find out she has cancer. This book rips at your heart as it continues with the book club between her and her son as she receives the cancer diagnosis and continues through treatments. Occasionally, I felt I had to put the book down to absorb what I had just read. This book cannot be read lightly.
As The End of Your Life Book Club progresses, the reader is introduced to a large number of books throughout. To me, it read like a series of mini book synopsis’ incorporated into real life discussions. I found myself excited when they talked about some books I read and loved (such as The Hobbit and Pillars of the Earth). As I read about other books I was not as familiar with, I came across some I was very interested in reading more about. I recommend keeping a notepad nearby with the intentions of writing down some great quotes and future books to pursue (after finishing this one, of course). One of my favorite quotes I took from the book and wanted to share here was:
“We’re all in the end-of-our-life book club, whether we acknowledge it or not; each book we read may well be the last, each conversation the final one.” (281)
This book was profound and filled with quotes like this you want to hold on to and think more about. The book did read with a liberal political agenda at times. However, the book overall was intriguing and brought together a large variety of topics and details. As time progressed, I found myself hoping for all the happiness for the characters.