"What are you reading?"
That's the question Will Schwalbe asks his mother, Mary Anne, as they sit in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2007, Mary Anne returned from a humanitarian trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan suffering from what her doctors believed was a rare type of hepatitis. Months later she was diagnosed with a form of advanced pancreatic cancer, which is almost always fatal, often in six months or less.
This is the inspiring true story of a son and his mother, who start a "book club" that brings them together as her life comes to a close. Over the next two years, Will and Mary Anne carry on conversations that are both wide-ranging and deeply personal, prompted by an eclectic array of books and a shared passion for reading. Their list jumps from classic to popular, from poetry to mysteries, from fantastic to spiritual. The issues they discuss include questions of faith and courage as well as everyday topics such as expressing gratitude and learning to listen. Throughout, they are constantly reminded of the power of books to comfort us, astonish us, teach us, and tell us what we need to do with our lives and in the world. Reading isn't the opposite of doing; it's the opposite of dying.
Will and Mary Anne share their hopes and concerns with each other - and rediscover their lives - through their favorite books. When they read, they aren't a sick person and a well person, but a mother and a son taking a journey together. The result is a profoundly moving tale of loss that is also a joyful, and often humorous, celebration of life: Will's love letter to his mother, and theirs to the printed page.
©2012 Will Schwalbe (P)2012 Random House Audio
"With a refreshing forthrightness, and an excellent list of books included, this is an astonishing, pertinent, and wonderfully welcome work." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
"A wonderful book about wonderful books and mothers and sons and the enduring braid between them. Like the printed volumes it celebrates, this story will stay with you long after the last page." (Mitch Albom, author of Tuesdays with Morrie and The Time Keeper)
"Will Schwalbe's lyrical tribute to a life well-lived and a death graced with love and literature is a precious gift bestowed on all of us. What a unique and beautiful book this is, and how privileged we are to have it." (Sherwin B. Nuland, author of The Art of Aging and How We Die)
Do you love books and do (did) you love your mother? If you answer yes to these two questions, Will Schwalbe's book should not be missed. I'm not an Audible listener who often reviews books - books are personal and one person's, "Not to be missed!" is another's, "Utter rubbish!" But this one is truly outstanding.
In one book, you receive not only a reading list to work from (oh, yes, I do intend to read some of the books Will and Mary Ann discussed), but you learn how to share the end of a loved one's life. This marks the first time I'll buy a hard copy of a book I've listed to - so that I might share it with others, in much the same way Mary Ann would undoubtedly share her son's lovely homage.
I really wanted to like this book. My wife has a chronic illness and found this book to be very moving. So, in an effort to bond with her, I agreed to listen to it. Hard as I tried to like it several factors got in the way. The first is the narration. Although Harding is a good narrator, I think his voice is better suited for a different type of book - not one that requires you to accompany someone with a terminal illness on their final journey. Regrettably, Schwalbe also disrupts this process by going back and forth between several different narrative themes that work at cross purposes - at least for me.
The first theme is the impending loss of his mother. This is the sweetest portion of the book and the one I expected the book to focus on. The emotional impact of this theme is significantly lessened, however, by Scwalbe's efforts to alternatingly tell his mother's life story, his story, and the story of how much the two of them loved books. As Schwalbe jumps from book to book, I was initially interested, but eventually felt irritated because I realized he was avoiding the most important theme - the loss of his mother. To the extent that you can accept that he had an intellectualized relationship with his mother, and that the books were a metaphor for elements of their relationship, it seemed to help.
Ultimately, this story felt emotionally detached and the author seemed so distracted by all of the books that are mentioned that he had trouble maintaining an emotional connection to "the end of your life" part of The End of Your Life Book Club.
This book dealt with a number of issues. It is the story of how a son and his mother deal with her terminal illness in a very loving, gentle, and respectful way. It is a story about the power of stories and books. And it is a story about a woman who chose to use the money and influence she had to make the world a better place, while keep a strong focus on her family who had great love and respect for her. It's a lovely and thoughtful book.
I've been through this with my mother - everyone's story is different - we didn't read books, for example. But I think it's important to look at end of life stories as a combination of happy and sad, and to know that while it's frightening, it is something you can get through. So the relevance.
Would depend on the subject.
I'm on the fence about him as narrator. I thought Mary Ann's voice was a bit falsetto.
I thought the book lacked emotion. As I said, we're all different, but I didn't get a sense of how he really felt. It was all very calm, clean, upper class white Protestant people (sorry, I don't mean to offend), and yet, this was a woman who spent a lot of time in refugee camps. I was looking for more feeling.
But, given that it was a book about books, I did think of reading some of these books.
A school administrator and avid reader and listener of books. At least an hour of every day is spent in the car, and that's where the bulk of my listening is done. I tend to listen to books on "faster" mode so I can get through more books!
There are no spoilers here. When a book is called "The end of your life book club," you know exactly what is going to happen in the end. Schwalbe walks you through about two years of his life as he and his mother discuss books during her cancer treatments and until her eventual death.
This book is touching--a son who loves his mother re-adjusts his life to be by her side for much of her ilness and a mother who inspired the love of reading not only in her own family, but it others around the world.
This book is a review of dozens of books out there waiting to be read. You may find yourself agreewith with Schwalbe's view of some books you've already written, while other books may be added to your reading list.
This book is inspiring. You will want to find purpose, grace and understanding like Schwalbe's mother, Mary Anne, displayed. If only the world were full of more people like her.
I enjoyed my time with this book, and I think you will, too.
More about the people. Found that the only connection she had with people was stories (books) other people's adventure rather then their own
Only connection was books
I like both the audio and the print the same.
I loved connecting with the characters -- I felt like I knew them!
He portrays the personality of the story well.
I told everyone around me that they MUST read the book, and told of how precious the storyline is.
This book is a definite stocking stuffer. I want to have this kind of relationship with my own children in my waning years. I also now want to read all the books from Mary Anne and Will's booklist.
Yes. I really enjoyed this book. It was a great review of some of the books I had read.
I am not sure.
No. But I will look for other books performed by him.
The discussion of the The Bite of Mango was very compelling.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Jeff did a great job in his performance.
Freddie v. Hulst
For all who have accompanied a loved one on the journey a reminder, for others an inspiration ...
The title did not entice. Yet, I am so grateful like to have read this. What an amazing woman - not simply in accomplishments, but also in the day-to-day way she lived with significant integrity.
And her leonine love of books leaves a treasure trove for the rest of us! On the kindle version (thank goodness for whisper sync) there is a list of the books. Just finished (and loved) The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Thank you Mary Anne.
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