Saturday, February 16, 2013

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

The End of Your Life Book Club
Author: Will Schwalbe
Published: October 2, 2012
Genre: memoir
eBook: approx. 336 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): “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.

My Thoughts: I love a good memoir, one that makes you look at your own life in a different way because of someone else, who you probably have never met. This is the case with this book by Will Schwalbe. Following the nearly two years of his mother's battle with pancreatic cancer, Schwalbe details how they came to form a special bond over that time, learning more about one another and the world than they could have without the aid of some great books.

I find if hard to review memoir's because it's hard to tear apart someone else's life and comment on it. So, I won't. Instead, let me tell you that this is a wonderful book about a mother and son bonding with one another over literature. Now, they do read a few classics, but most of what they read is newer or focused in the Middle East (Will's mother does a lot of volunteer work with organizations focused in that area). While it didn't take away from my understading of the book, it sometimes did make it hard for me to relate. But the way that Schwalbe tells you about the books that they are reading is great. If you are nervous that he is going to blow any books ending, then don't worry about it. While he is able to give you enough background on the book so you understand the topics that he is discussing, he never gives anything away (which was one of my concerns with the book.)

If you know someone who is battling cancer or whose battle with the disease has ended, then this would be a great book to read. While the word "book club" is in the title, this memoir has little to do with books, but more with the way we handle the battle of this awful disease, not only as the afflicted, but also as the family members. Definitely something that should be read!

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