Published by Knopf/DoubleDay on October 2, 2012
Genres/Lists: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Read synopsis on Goodreads
Buy the book: Amazon/Audible (this post includes affiliate links)
“Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying.”
The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe is another one of those books that has been on every ‘Best of 2012’ list I have seen. It’s also very popular in the world of book blogging, with a few of my bloggy friends having read it already. So, I decided to take the plunge and read the book even though I wasn’t entirely sure how I would feel about it and couldn’t personally relate.
The book is about the author’s last two years with his mother, Mary Anne, who is dying of terminal pancreatic cancer. Through chemo treatments and doctor appointments, the two read and discuss various books (which are provided in an appendix, which has added considerably to my ‘to be read’ list). Although there is never any question about whether or not the author’s mother is going to live or not, I was still surprised and sad in a way that I hadn’t expected. Perhaps it was because Mary Anne was a real person and not a fictional character (it could also be because she spent her last days fluctuating between reading and Law & Order, which are two of my favorite things).
The author punctuates the book with words of wisdom, most of which was gleaned from his mother, who by all accounts was an amazing woman. She was a firm believer in caring for others and devoted her life to spreading literacy in Afghanistan and working for and with refugees. She was able to move in and out of third-world countries just as easily as she could fit in with Harvard administrators (where she was one). And, she wasn’t a fan of e-readers because she couldn’t be surrounded by her books, nor could she hand them down or read the same copy as someone else.
By the end of the book, I felt like I really knew Mary Anne Schwalbe. The author does a great job of bringing the reader into the inner folds of her life and doesn’t taint it with that feeling that he is trying too hard to convince the reader of her amazingness. I have been fortunate in that I cannot personally relate to this book, but yet I can appreciate the hard work and emotional toll (albeit therapeutic) it must have taken on the author and I am grateful that he chose to share their story.