“What are you reading?”
It’s the question writer Will Schwalbe asks his mother throughout her treatment for pancreatic cancer. It is a question that one can’t necessarily ask these days, for one can’t be sure someone is reading anything at all.
But in The End of Your Life Book Club, Will and his mother start a two-person book club that brings them together as they face the end of her life. Over the two years of her treatment, the books they read ignite conversations about life, faith, courage, gratitude and so much more. The books allow them to talk about things happening in their own lives, and help them to talk about death.
Schwalbe writes, “That’s one of the things books do. They help us talk. But they also give us something we can talk about when we don’t want to talk about ourselves.”
The books they read are wide-ranging, from popular to classic, and include mysteries and poetry.
Will’s mother is not an ordinary woman. We learn about the extraordinary life of Mary Anne who has a passion for helping others, and is devoted to helping refugees. She takes her love of books to new heights in her determination to build a library in Afghanistan where resources are so limited.
“She never wavered in her conviction that books are the most powerful tool in the human arsenal, that reading all kinds of books, in whatever format you chose – electronic (even though that wasn’t for her) or printed, or audio – is the grandest entertainment, and also how you take part in the human conversation. Mom taught me that you can make a difference in the world and that books really do matter: they’re how we know what we need to do in life, and how we tell others.”
With Mary Anne’s diagnosis, reader’s know how the book is going to end. But that didn’t stop me from crying openly at the end.
In the beginning, I found myself anxious and slightly impatient, not with the book itself but with my own eagerness to read so many of the books mentioned in The End of your Life Book Club. Readers, never fear, there is an alphabetized list of the authors, books, plays, poems and stories discussed and mentioned throughout. You will not have a shortage of things to read once you have finished this book.
The End of Your Life Book Club isn’t a book about death, it is about life and the life lessons we learn not only from the books we read but the conversations which are inspired by the books we read. I was left with a renewed belief in the transformative power of reading; the power of books to give us experiences we might not have otherwise experienced, to show us settings that feel like places we visited in another lifetime or wish to someday visit, and introduce us to characters who come to feel like old friends.