The basics: When his mother Mary Anne is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Will Schwalbe accompanies her to her chemotherapy appointments. They form a two-person book club during these appointments, as they share their thoughts on life and literature.
My thoughts: A book about a mother dying might seem a peculiar choice to read while pregnant, but instead of it depressing me, I found it inspiring and filled with parenting advice. Will and his mother Mary Anne already had a close relationship before her diagnosis; the premise of this book is not a memoir gimmick. They share a life-long love of reading, but their discussions about what they're reading took a different turn as Mary Anne fought cancer. While this book is largely about their relationship with one another and with books, it's also a testament to Mary Anne, who was a truly extraordinary woman.
I was first drawn to Will recounting how his mother shaped his love of reading when he was a child. As an almost-mother who loves to read (obviously), I've spent a lot of time this pregnancy thinking about how to share my love of reading with the nomadbaby, and this book gave me many ideas, from childhood through adulthood.
While I found this book more inspiring than depressing, there is an undercurrent of death. We learn in the book's opening pages that Mary Anne does die, but as a reader, I shared her positive outlook: she lived a great life and had the gift of a diagnosis to let her know when her end was coming. She spent her final days, weeks, and months doing exactly what she wanted to.
The verdict: I utterly adored The End of Your Life Book Club. What could easily be a schmaltzy book instead was a charming, insightful tale of life and literature. Schwalbe uses his relationship with his mother to tell a story much bigger than the two of them. Highly recommended.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 9 hours and 40 minutes (354 pages)
Publication date: October 12, 2012
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The End of Your Life Book Club from Amazon (Kindle edition.)
Want more? Visit the book's website, like it on Facebook, and follow Will Schwalbe on Twitter.
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