Review first published on my blog: http://memoriesfrombooks.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-end-of-your-life-book-club.html
The End of Your Life Book Club is a story of two years - from the time Will Schwalbe's mother Mary Ann is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer to her death. It is a journey towards an end that the family knows is coming. It is also a celebration of their life. Finally, under the umbrella of their book club of two people, the book seeks to become a discussion of so many emotions, topics and lessons learned. Perhaps, it becomes a means to coping with the loss.
The idea of finding things we need to talk about and doing it in the context of a book, of course, appeals to me. I loved all the books references - becoming part of the conversation for those I have read and making a mental list of the ones I have not read. At the end of this book, the author does provide a list of all the referenced books. The books they read are not discussed in detail unfortunately, but merely become the vehicle to present the rest of the story.
As far as the family story, I found myself relating to parts and not to others. I could not relate to their lifestyle of big projects and world travel. I did completely relate to the their love of books, their love for each other, and the emotions of loss.
At one point in the book the author thinks, "I often forget that other people's stories aren't simply introductions to my own more engaging, more dramatic, more relevant, and better-told tales, but rather ends in themselves, tales I can learn from or repeat or dissect or savor." I am glad he had the chance to "repeat, dissect, and savor" stories with his mother, and I am glad he chose to share his story with us.
Nancy P. reviewed The End of Your Life Book Club on
Helpful Score: 3
I loved this book! The author introduces us to his mother at the end of her life. He uses their mutual love of books as the backdrop of the "story" which is about a wonderful woman whom you can't help but wish you had met in person. It's wonderfully told and not at all depressing.
As an avid reader I enjoyed this book very much! I loved the connection between the mother/son (I have 2 sons). Also the mother's health situation (dying of cancer) & going through chemo struck a raw nerve for me. A dear friend of mine is also going through the same health situation/treatment at the same time as I was reading the book. It was not depressing, it was upliftingI would recommend this book to anyone who loves to read!
I kind of jumped the gun with The End of Your Life Book Club, since it's supposed to be my book club's pick for next month. But I couldn't help myself; this book was incredibly moving, every step of the way. It's such a beautiful idea to me: sharing your final months with someone by reading the same books he or she does and discussing them, learning a little more about that person and sharing more of yourself every step of the way. As predicted, I've gleaned lots of new book titles for my To-Be-Read list, and I feel very appreciative of my life and the opportunities I've been given. I would highly recommend Schwalbe's memoir of his mother. What a great way to start the new year!
It's not often that you can walk away from a book with a LIST of books you would like to read - thank you Will Schwalbe! (and thank you members of PBS for having them!)
I did not expect to fall so in love with this book, but I found myself reading it at every possible moment I could - whether it be 10 minutes on a lunch break or during commercial breaks while watching TV.
What a beautiful way to capture and memorialize the last 18 months with the woman who shaped you.
It's a very touching topic and there are a lot of great books recommended here but the book itself is not all that engaging. Lots of references to how rich and privileged the author and his family are and all of their connections makes it very difficult to connect with the characters. A very slow read. Doesn't live up to the reviews but you will get a nice list of other books that you want to read in the future from this book.
Thats one of the things books do. They help us talk. But they also give us something we all can talk about when we dont want to talk about ourselves.
This is an amazing story about selflessness, family, friends, and the power of the written word. Mary Anne Schwalbe dedicated her life to help those in the most need. She traveled to third-world countries without a thought for her own well-being just to make at least one persons life a little bit brighter. One would think that after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Schwalbe would slow down and take it easy, not the case. She was more determined than ever to create more happy memories with her family and friends and to fulfill her dream of building a national cultural center and library at Kabul University in Afghanistan.
Will and his mom share a love of reading and find the book discussions as easy segues to other topics on their minds: cancer, death, religion, etc. The pair forms their own personal book club and discuss their reads on trips to and from chemo therapy. Their discussions help create a special bond between them and the discussions serve a therapeutic role for both of them. Sharing book discussions with his mom help Will as he tries to cope with his moms illness and how to approach her illness without seeming suffocating. Mary Anne, a strong and independent woman learns how to subtly communicate her feelings of fear and hope by reading books on the illness and other subject matter which help her to come to the realization of just how blessed and enriched her life is. Because Mary Anne cares more for others than herself, she makes it a point to always check in via email to see how everyone is doing. With the help of Will, she communicates with everyone on a blog and updates them on her health and on her many projects to serve those in need. She ultimately receives, from a friend who also gave her a book that helped her cope with her illness (Daily Strength for Daily Needs) a donation for a million dollars to put towards the Afghan library project!
This book isnt just for those who have or know someone dealing with cancer. This book is about inspiration and getting (and giving) the most out of life. It's about opening up to those you love and letting them know who you are and what you stand for before it's too late. It's about acts of kindnesses and paying them forward. At the very least, read this book for the amazing discussions and summaries on the many books the mother and son share. Everything from P.G. Wodehouse to Owen Meany to Continental Drift to People of the Book and The Painted Veil (the list goes on and on) are mentioned.