I am so glad I was finally able to read The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. I had been hearing so many good things about this book and was really looking forward to reading it myself.
Here's what this book is all about:
“What are you reading?”This was such a powerful and interesting book. I wasn't sure how it would read - would it be a typical non-fiction read for me (I'm the slowest non-fiction reader) or would it flow more like a novel? It turned out to be the latter, which was great.
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.
Mary Anne was such a strong woman. Not only when she was fighting cancer (though her strength shone then as well) but throughout her whole life. For example, she had no issue going off to war torn countries to help those affected by war. I could never ever do that. She saw, first hand, that so many people were suffering and became set on trying to make their lives better. I'm so glad that Will included some of the moments when Mary Anne was honoured for her work. It makes me happy to know she was recognized for her work before it was too late.
Even though I had no idea who Will was or who his mother was, I was still interested in their stories. I admit to thinking that, had Mary Anne not led the life she did this book would not have gotten written. Not only that, but I'm sure Will's connections in publishing helped as well. These thoughts seem negative and/or disrespectful but those were the thoughts I had and these posts are all about my thoughts on what I'm reading. Of course, that being said, I'm glad that this book was able to be published. It's one of those books that shows you there's a bit of hope and there are ways to make what little time you have left with someone more bearable and enjoyable.
The End of Your Life Book Club isn't just about books, of course, and that's what makes it a great read. Will Schwalbe clearly loved his mother and the fact that he chose to share this story with the world is wonderful. You might find a few new titles to pick up when you read this book but, ultimately, you'll remember how important family is and the next time you see your mom, dad, sister, brother, you might hug them a little tighter and ask the question that started all of this for Will and his mother - "What are you reading?" You never know where the conversation will end up.
*I received a copy of this book from Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review*