The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe (5 out of 5)




This was a book I put off reading. For purely selfish reasons. With my father’s health up and down sporadically in the last year, my superstitious nature dictated to me that it was a book I should not read. Why? Because I’m an emotional landmine and would read (literally) way too much into it. Unfortunately, I now have friends who are losing their parents to cancer. I realized this is an incredibly stupid reason to not read this book, so I picked it up. I am glad I did. 

Will Schwalbe’s mother Mary Ann is diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer that has metastasized. She continues to live an active life, despite the grim prognosis and the chemotherapy treatments that she has begun in the interim. The Schwalbes raised their children with an appreciation for books of all sizes and genres, and that continues into adulthood. Will finds that in all the time he and his mother spend together, prior to the diagnosis, they always end up discussing books. Quite often. One day during a hospital visit, they decide to have a book club. The variety of books, not to mention the sheer number, that are read throughout their treatment, inspire them to have even more meaningful discussions, especially in wake of the eventual outcome. I got some great ideas for future reads from this book. I had some definite agreements and disagreements with Will’s thoughts on several books. (Kite Runner? Sorry, dude, that is a classic in my book.). I found my reading style actually was closer to what Mary Ann Schwalbe had mentioned enjoying. The fact that both mother and son could continue to grow closer with their shared passion for the written word, and despite the battle she was waging, well, it definitely tears at your heartstrings. 

The book didn’t sadden me, and I was surprised by that. If I had bothered to read the reviews earlier (I’m not a big fan of judging potential books by what the media critics say; I pay more attention to the many book blogs I follow, plus I go by what my colleagues at the bookstore and customers who shop there recommend to me.), I would have known this fact. I’m glad I finally put aside my stupid superstition and read it. I was greatly moved by the book. Not only is Will a likable fellow, he’s a good son, and tries so hard not to add to his mother’s worryload (there’s a great deal of him worrying about putting too much on her, saying the wrong thing to her, etc. in the book. But really, in that situation, it’s hard to know sometimes what the right thing is to say or do.) in wake of her cancer fight.

Mary Ann Schwalbe was a remarkable woman, in her own right. She had a career on top of being a wife and mother, in a time when that was still quite a rarity. She was a fundraiser and humanitarian, accomplishing things like building a library in Afghanistan, in a time and place in the world where that isn’t a thing you’re going to hear many women are doing. She travels to many locations, some of them dangerous, and has no problem helping with whatever dirty work needs to be done. That on top of raising a family. Pretty fantastic lady, Mrs. Mary Ann Schwalbe.

Overall, an emotionally inspiring book. You know from the first of the book that Mary Ann is not going to come back from this battle, but she’s going to go out of this life on her own terms and in her own way. Thankfully, Will was along to write about their book club and how inspiring she was, not only to him, but now, to a whole new host of readers. 



~ by generationgbooks on August 19, 2013.

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