The End Of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe -352 pages
“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.
My Review: 4.5 stars
This is one of the most inspirational yet depressing books I’ve read in a long time. It is ultimately a love story between mother and son and their mutual love of books. This author, previously in the book publishing business, along his mother and other siblings, are perhaps the most well read people I’ve encountered. A passion for all types of work, genres, age and content, poetry, plays and more; I was swept away by their knowledge and respect for the written word. As the mom sits in chemo, she and her son discuss books in their private book club of two. The books become a catalyst for their discussions which often times bring about the topics that are most hard to discuss: homosexuality of the author, religion/faith, living and dying. Although I encountered books I’ve never heard of and now wish to one day read, it was learning about this impassioned woman, the children she raised, the selfless work she did with refugees, her empathy for all people, her lack of prejudice and her wish to complete the building of a library in Afghanistan that I adored. She would’ve loved this book, yet she would’ve passed the credit to someone else. Highly recommend to all book lovers.
Quotes I liked:
-“One of the many things I love about bound books is their sheer physicality. Electronic books live out of sight and out of mind. But printed books have body, presence. ... I often seek electronic books, but they never come after me. They may make me feel, but I can't feel them. They are all soul with no flesh, no texture, and no weight.”
-“We all owe everyone for everything that happens in our lives. But it's not owing like a debt to one person--it's really that we owe everyone for everything. Our whole lives can change in an instant--so each person that keeps that from happening, no matter how small a role they play, is also responsible for all of it. Just by giving friendship and love, you keep the people around you from giving up--and each expression of friendship or love may be the one that makes all the difference.”
-“We're all in the end-of-your-life book-club, whether we acknowledge it or not; each book we read may well be the last, each conversation the final one.”
- “He remains for my family the perfect model of how you can be gone but ever present in the lives of people who loved you, in the same way that your favorite books stay with your for your entire life, no matter how long it’s been since you turned the last page.”
- “What I suddenly understood was that a thank-you note isn’t the price you pay for receiving a gift, as so many children think it is, a kind of minimum tribute or toll. but an opportunity to count your blessings. And gratitude isn’t what you give in exchange for something; it’s what you feel when you are blessed-blessed to have family and friends who care about you, and who want to see you happy. Hence the joy of thanking.”
Tags: 2012, Non Fiction, Memoir
Labels: 2012, Memoir, Non-Fiction