Review: The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

06 Jan
The End of Your Life Book Club

The End of Your Life Book Club

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

Goodreads Summary:  “What are you reading?”

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. 

Will and Mary Anne share their hopes and concerns with each other—and rediscover their lives—through their favorite books. When they read, they aren’t a sick person and a well person, but a mother and a son taking a journey together. The result is a profoundly moving tale of loss that is also a joyful, and often humorous, celebration of life: Will’s love letter to his mother, and theirs to the printed page. 

This is a touching story about the last days between a son and his mother.  Even though I’m sure Mary Anne had flaws just like the rest of us (Schwalbe pretty much shies away from that topic), it is easy to see that she was truly a remarkable woman – not only to her son but to many people world wide.

I’ll be honest and say that I chose to read this book because I thought it was one of those books you just have to read. With the title, you can’t expect it to have a happy ending.  But, while I did cry as I finished the book, I can’t really say the book is a sad one. It’s a celebration of the life of a remarkable woman and the importance books played in her life and her dying.

Mary Anne truly lives while dying and she does it with an astounding dignity.

This is an excellent read for anyone, especially book clubs. Yes, it’s a serious read, but don’t let that stop you. It’s one of those books you will feel better for having read.


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Posted by on January 6, 2013 in Uncategorized


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