Title: The End of Your Life Bookclub
Author: Will Schwalbe
“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 Centre. 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 favourite 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.
I think it is going to be impossible for me to eloquently describe what a wonderful book THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOKCLUB is in my review. I started hearing about it earlier this year – lots of my online bookie friends were raving about it. I resisted for a while fearing that it may have been a little depressing given the subject matter, the inevitable death of a main character is never going to be a happy event. But there was the literature angle – the discussions of books – an essential part of my life. So would the discussion of books overcome the downer I thought I was going to get? But while the basis of the plot is that Mary Anne is dying, THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOKCLUB is actually about life; living life to the fullest, loving life, accepting that life throws the bad at you along with the good and it is also about accepting that life ends but doing it on your terms. THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOKCLUB is sad but it is also thought provoking and light-hearted. I have to confess that some of the books that Will and his mother read I have never heard of, some I have started to read and given up on, other I devoured. Not having read, or having disliked some of the books that they read and discuss it did not alter the pleasure of reading this book. I enjoyed the discussions between the two about the books they read, what they learned from reading them, how they related the events in the books to events in their lives; past, present and future. That’s not reading a book that is inhaling a book. I love it. If you are a reader, I highly recommend this book, each of them get different things out of the books they read and they don’t always agree, THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOKCLUB will leave you reflecting on what they have said for a long time after you close the book.
Rating: A – Excellent. I could not put it down.
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