Sunday, March 3, 2013

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

From Amazon.com
“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 Review

I am not sure how to put into words my thoughts on this book.

I can simply state that You Should Read This Book!

Plain and simple

What Will Schwalbe has created is a memoir of sorts of a relationship between mother and son knowing that she will die of her cancer.

I was entranced by this book. It is not a book with action or mind changing events, but a story of life. A story of how books can transform us and leave us with a memory from our past. I have these books on my shelf. When I grab my Catcher in Rye book that I read in high school I instantly go back to the days of trying to identify who I was and wanted I wanted to do with myself. I can grab John Green novels and do the same. Like music, books hold a moment in time.

One of my favorite passages was Will describing his love for a real tangible book and not an ebook. He writes:

Electronic books live out of sight and out of mind. But printed books have body, presence. Sure, sometimes they'll elude you by hiding in improbable places: in a box full of old picture frames, say, or in the laundry basket, wrapped in a sweatshirt. But at other times they'll confront you, and you';; literally stumbled over some tomes you hadn't though about in weeks or years. 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. They can get in your head but can't whack you upside it.


So true. I know when I buy an ebook that if it grabs me I turn around and buy a physical copy to have and hold.

I found the book to be lovely. Sounds cheesy and not something I would typically write to describe the books I read. I loved the dialogue about characters and setting and themes. I wish I had someone or a group to dig into books they way they did.

My favorite part was the list of books at the end. I plan on reading each of these to see how they touch and move me and compare with what they read and felt.

The story was real. The relationships were real and the connections were real. In the end, life is about relationship and making connections. We can do this through many means, but a book allows us to connect with the characters in the story as well as fellow readers. This book was a great reminder about the power of words and story. As a father of three I need to continue to ignite the flame of reading in my children. As a teacher I still do this and as a member of society I need to continue to spread the word about great books that hopefully allows me to connect with more people to share ideas with.

Needless to say I give this book thumbs up. You know the ending before you read, but for once this does not ruin the beauty of the journey.


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