Thursday, December 27, 2012

The End of Your Life Book Club; Will Schwalbe

Author:  Will Schwalbe (memoir)
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Random House
Edition: audiobook and eGalley
Reader: Jeff Harding (excellent)
Setting: New York City
Source: Edelweiss
Date Completed: December/2012
Recommend: yes
Rating: 5/5

Mary Anne Schwalbe was a well educated woman who lived life to the fullest. She was an educator who loved to travel and she loved to help those in need.  She worked and traveled extensively to places like Liberia,Thailand and Afghanistan to help refugees.

In 2007, after returning home from one of her trips outside of the US, she became ill and extremely fatigued.  After months of  visits to doctors and undergoing various testing, she learned she had pancreatic  cancer. The one cancer for which there is no cure, but one which if caught early enough and treated with chemotherapy / radiation, life can often been extended.  A fighter, she opted for treatment and soon began chemotherapy at Memorial Sloan Kettering outpatient clinic in New York City.

Mary Anne was an avid book lover who had the odd habit of reading the end of the book first.  Her son Will, accompanied his mother to her treatments at the clinic and as a sort of ice-breaker, always asked his mother,  "what are you reading?".  The two, from November 2007 until her death in September of 2009,  engaged in an informal book club , where they shared their passion for books. Their conversions lead to discussions about faith, family and life as well, and  how, our never long enough, time here on earth has meant.

The End of Your Life Book Club is a poignant memoir that left me with a lot to think about.  Mary Anne was truly an amazing woman, and Will a son to be admired.  While some may think that this book would be too depressing to read, I did not see it as that. Instead, I though it was deeply personal, inspiring and beautifully written.  The audio book, read by Jeff Harding was excellent, but I was also glad I had the eGalley as there are many wonderful passages I wanted to reread.

Just some of the books that the two discussed were: Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegnar; Kite Runner, Hosseini; Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky; Too Much Happiness, Alice Munro; The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch; The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid; The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion; The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larrson; Gilead, Marilynne Robinson; The Lizard Cage, Karen Connelly as well as TS Elliot, poetry and several others as well.

I loved this memoir, and it's one of those special books that will make most of you feel happy you took the time to read it.

[ note to self when choosing what I read in 2013]

 Not to be morbid, but whether we are ill or well, perhaps we all should read books with "The End of Life Book Club" in mind.  We just never know when each book we read could very well be our last.  The same concept rang true to me about the people in our lives that we care about -- share your kindness and love for others now, so that those you care about never have to wonder how you feel about them.  Live each day like it was your last.


  1. This is certainly apt for everyone to read though some do not want to think of an end to our life!

  2. Beautiful and intelligent review, Diane.

  3. Interesting how we have the same books. I just brought this one home and have just started reading it.

  4. This does sound thought provoking and inspiring. It also sounds right up my alley. Thanks for your review.

  5. Oh, I so want to read this book!! It struck a chord with me right from the first time I heard about it, and now I keep reading glowing reviews. I love books about books anyway, and I love memoirs...and I really love thought-provoking books. So, I will have to somehow find time to read this one in 2013!

    Thanks for the great review, Diane -


    Book By Book

  6. I really want to read this one... will consider listening.

  7. Right now I have two friends who are fighting for their lives because of cancer, so even though she loses her battle I want to read about her life and how she shared books with her son.

  8. This book is on my to read list. I hope as I am aging I make time to know the people in my life that I love so much. Sharing a book is a good way to communicate. I have learned, sadly, that death is a part of life and must be embraced with joy.The characters in this book maybe get it right!

  9. I started listening to this on my Nano the other day, but got distracted. I plan to spend more time listening today. I'm interested to hear what they say about Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. I read that one several years ago and thought it was very insightful. I have several passages highlighted in that book!

    Wonderful review, Diane. Thank you.

  10. I've seen this around but I'm not sure I really paid attention to what it was about. It definitely appeals to me on a lot of levels.

  11. I was wondering what this about but didn't realize it was a memoir and not a novel. I think I need to read it. Thanks for the review!

  12. I love your final thoughts on this one, Mary. I really want to read this one. Will does sound like an amazing son.


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