Thursday, 22 August 2013

Review: The End Of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

RATING: 4.5 napkins

During her treatment for cancer, Mary Anne Schwalbe and her son Will spent many hours sitting in waiting rooms together. To pass the time, they would talk about the books they were reading. Once, by chance, they read the same book at the same time—and an informal book club of two was born. Through their wide-ranging reading, Will and Mary Anne—and we, their fellow readers—are reminded how books can be comforting, astonishing, and illuminating, changing the way that we feel about and interact with the world around us. A profoundly moving memoir of caregiving, mourning, and love—The End of Your Life Book Club is also about the joy of reading, and the ways that joy is multiplied when we share it with others. (courtesy of

(courtesy of Goodreads)

Color me oblivious but I didn't realize this is non-fiction when I first started reading this, even after having read the blurb at the back of the book somewhere. All I remembered was that it was a book club that a son and a mother started, just between the 2 of them, after the mother got seriously ill. Something in my brain must have blocked out the part that it was actually Will and his mother's story. And I purposely didn't read any reviews prior to reading this as I want to know as little as possible about the book to not taint my reading experience. Yes that's how much I was looking forward to it.

So imagine my surprise when I realized it was non-fiction after I started reading it. Yes, yes, I know, crazy! Needless to say, my reading experience took a different turn after. It took me a while to finish this book, not because it was poorly written. It was more like me only being able to take a small dose of it at a time.

For a book lover like myself, I loved the connection between Will and his mother over their love of books. The number of books they covered was varied as they can get; from the classics to literary to spiritual to contemporary. Some of the books they talked about almost felt like it came out of an English lit syllabus that one's professor hands out in the beginning of the term. Because they're both highly educated with varied careers, their choices of books almost felt intimidating at times and can almost make one feel just ignorant, couple that with the fact that one can clearly tell that the Schwalbes inhabit a more privileged strata in our North American society. Nevertheless, every book they touched on are, or at least appeared to be, worth looking into and reading.

I loved how Mary's life story came alive in the book. For all the luxuries afforded her, her entire life, she sounded really down-to-earth, and with all the amazing things she has accomplished, her humanitarian deeds, we all can learn a lesson or 2, or 20, from the way she lived her life. She was a progressive thinker thru and thru, with a gentle soul. I didn't get the feeling that she actually considered herself a feminist, but I think, women, in general, should be thankful for women like her who showed what we are capable of doing if we put our minds to it. Actually, both men and women can learn something from her life.

I also loved how Will got to know her mother more thru their so-called book club, and anyone who's lost a loved one to an illness can certainly appreciate the opportunity that he had to connect with his mother and did something that they both truly enjoyed right to the end.

This is one touching memoir, a loving ode from a child to a parent. I'm pretty sure Mary, where ever she may be, feels that Will did her proud with this story.


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