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The End of Your Life Book Club | [Will Schwalbe]

The End of Your Life Book Club

>"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.
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Publisher's Summary

"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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Mark Raglan, New Zealand 01-25-13
    Mark Raglan, New Zealand 01-25-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A good book, but not really for me."

    At first I thought I’d made a big mistake choosing this book, and for a while I was tempted to return it. I chose it because I am always struggling to think of my next book to download. You would think, with so many amazing books in the World, that I would have a long list of titles waiting patiently to be read. But for some reason this isn’t the case. I rarely get a book recommended to me and often, when I do, I don’t really like it. I think this is a combination of the fact that I don’t mix with particularly bookish people and I have a particular, perhaps narrow, taste in books. For example, I really like non-fiction and especially popular science.
    So I picked this book because I want to venture more into fiction, and I hoped that it would give me lots of great tips for novels to read. Unfortunately, it didn’t.
    This is an autobiographical book by an American publisher whose mother is dying of pancreatic cancer. He and his mother are both avid readers, and they turn their informal chats about their reading into a more formal arrangement whereby they read the same books and discuss them. Of course, it is also about the man’s love for, and close relationship with, his dying mother, who lived a busy and unselfish life helping people in war-torn countries around the World.
    Although, if I could live my life over again, I probably wouldn’t choose this book second time around, there were definitely some good things about it. The writer has a good engaging style and his reflections on life, dying and death were interesting enough to make me want to carry on listening to the end. For example, he was sitting beside her deathbed and I liked that fact that he admitted that he found this tedious, when I was expecting him to describe it as deeply intense and emotional.
    On the negative side, the book is a bit claustrophobic. It is almost exclusively about the man and his mother. Even though he is an interesting man and she was a brave philanthropist, the constant chemotherapy, the gradual deterioration, her physical frailty, their chats, all feel like you are trapped in a hospital room with the 2 of them for 2 years. You would hope that the escape from this would be the discussion of books, but very few, if any, of the books discussed made me think, ‘ooh, that sounds interesting, I must get that one’. This may be because I am shallow, or perhaps because I have different tastes to the author and his Mom. For example, they both appreciate poetry and pottery, and these things play no part whatsoever in my life.
    In short, this book is very well-written, but just isn’t really for me. Other people might love it. If you think you might be one of those people, I hope I haven’t put you off!

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    fred LAKE OSWEGO, OR, United States 10-30-12
    fred LAKE OSWEGO, OR, United States 10-30-12 Member Since 2010

    I'm Trying to see the world with my ears.

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    "Loved this book"

    Loved this book. Of course the subject of illness is difficult but I loved how this family dealt with illness, treatments and end of life. Good review of so many books that you may have read or meant to read. One of my year's favorite books.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 10-13-12
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 10-13-12 Member Since 2010

    I am an avid eclectic reader.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Exquisite"

    This is a beautifully written book and a difficult subject. This is not a sad book instead it is about a family of voracious readers who have a love of books and the story, message within. Will Schwalbe write about his day with his mother, Mary Ann Schwalbe, when he accompanies her for her chemotherapy treatment. Mary Ann had organized this in such a way she got to spend quality time with each of her children and her daughter-in-law. It becomes clear that she discussed books with each of her children and grandchildren. The book will provide you with a great reading list of books. When they discussed books I had read I was delighted to find I got a different insight into the book. The range of books read went from serious to the lighthearted comedy. The parents love of music came through in the story also. Mary Ann must have been a exceptional woman and very intelligent, I wish I had been given the privilege to know her. The way Schwalbe wrote the book I do feel as if I was part of her life for a time. This is book that will stay with you for a long time. This is a must read book for those who love to read.

    17 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Krista Golden, CO, United States 10-25-12
    Krista Golden, CO, United States 10-25-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Decent, but not earth-shattering"

    I really wanted to like this book, and I did in a lot of ways. If you approach it as just one guy's story about his mom and what his family was doing, thinking, and reading during his mom's battle with cancer (without any huge epiphanies or off-the-wall adventures or stunning realizations), you'll like it much better than if you're approaching it for sweeping insights. Don't get me wrong, I am saddened that families and friends ever have to watch someone they love battle this disease, and that wonderful people die everyday as we search for a cure, but this book just didn't expose any ringing truths or open my eyes to anything new, which I tend to need from a book to increase the stars in my ratings. My biggest issue? The complete perception of perfection that the author portrays of his mom, and of everyone around them. Could he not tell one story of their faults and foibles and fights? Even the one "mistake" we learn of his mom making during his childhood was so trivial that, while it made for a few minutes of easy reading, it didn't paint a picture of family life that I could relate to. My praise? It did make me want to read several of the books mentioned within. Books about books are like that.

    19 of 21 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Myrtha 10-14-12
    Myrtha 10-14-12 Member Since 2008
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    "If you're a book lover you must listen to this one"

    Not just because it's beautifully written, or because it is warm, honest, or because as some fellow listener said: "it gives you a glimpse into the life of an extraordinary human being" or not even for the amazing list of great books it provides. Ii's all that and much more, it's because is like listening to someone who speaks your same language. The language of books.
    The narration is excellent.
    It's been a privilege to listen to this book.

    15 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marcie 10-30-12
    Marcie 10-30-12
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    "Inspiring read for book lovers who care!"
    Where does The End of Your Life Book Club rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Among the top! I am recommending the book to all my friends and buying several copies for Christmas Presents! So many new books to explore! I want to be this way at the end of my life, sharing books I love with those I love. I now have a greater understanding of Chemotherapy, Ettiquette of Illness. Maryann was an inspirational women, whose life left the world a better place! Her son's story of their time together through books, showed his deep love and willingness to be there for his mother. IIam so glad I found this book!
    ONe can still with dignity and love and character at the end of one's life! I will now buy the book and highlight the books and also highlight the great wisdom.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The End of Your Life Book Club?

    Everything!


    Which character – as performed by Jeff Harding – was your favorite?

    Maryanne and Will, her son together; their relationship!


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    this is a book that needs time to reflect and absorb. although inspiring and an amazing sharing of boooks, life,illness- still at times painful.


    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr. Lake Oswego, OR, United States 04-14-13
    Dr. Lake Oswego, OR, United States 04-14-13 Member Since 2008
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    "Never Grabbed Me"

    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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anne Delgany County Wicklow, Ireland 10-11-12
    Anne Delgany County Wicklow, Ireland 10-11-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Breathtaking"
    Would you listen to The End of Your Life Book Club again? Why?

    Because there was so much that I identified with, the author sentiments were so close to how I felt about my Mothers illness and death, that it literally took my breath away. Also, I wrote down most of the titles from book club (all of which I want to read) I would like to listen once again to the reasons for choosing titles.


    What other book might you compare The End of Your Life Book Club to and why?

    None really, because this book touched me in such a unique way, I felt it was almost written for me, it felt to me as if my Mum said "if you read these books ,they will answer all your questions"


    What does Jeff Harding bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He made the book speak to me, he could have been Will Schwalbe, it was as if he was talking about his own mother


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Most of it did but especially the very last few minutes, he captured that moment when someone dies exactly as it is.


    Any additional comments?

    No, I would like to thank the author, Maryann was so like my own mother, some of the similarities are uncanny, even down to his Mother's concern for his insomnia. He has given me a readymade booklist, a big thanks.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    LeSLiE 10-10-12
    LeSLiE 10-10-12

    QUESTION : DOES LISTENING TO AUDIO BOOKS MAKE YOU SMARTER? If so, I'm. Freakin Genius!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Books, Love, Loss, And An Extraordinary Mom."

    This is one of the most wonderful, and beautiful tribunes any son could write for a much loved mother.
    It's potent, powerful, and still manages to entertain. I cant help but wish I could become more like Will Schwalbe's mother.
    She is (in my humble opinion) a hero of our times.

    I recommend this book, not because of her son, the book's author, who I found to be a little "stuckup", but for the chance to glimpse into the life of an extraordinary lady.

    Oh, and the list of the books aren't to shabby either. :)

    12 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sintillator Flagstaff, AZ 11-19-12
    Sintillator Flagstaff, AZ 11-19-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Poignant, Uplifting & Comforting"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The End of Your Life Book Club to be better than the print version?

    N/A


    What did you like best about this story?

    The insights shared into who Mary Anne was, what she believed in, what she accomplished, how she chose to look at and live her life. Certainly this book is something most adults can benefit from by gaining more life insights from this remarkable woman's perspective.


    Which character – as performed by Jeff Harding – was your favorite?

    Mary Anne


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Not for me.


    Any additional comments?

    As someone who has experienced first hand a very similar experience watching my mothers final journey. I feel blessed and honored to be able to revisit that journey along with the author as he retells what this personal experience meant for him and his family. Not being a "everyone should" kind of person I still feel comfortable stating that there is plenty for everyone to touch and be touched by in this wonderful book.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
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  • Yvonne
    Little Mountain, Australia
    4/8/13
    Overall
    "The End of Your LIfe Book Club"

    This was an interesting read and informed the reader of a lot of good books to read. It was sensitive and sad, but also uplifting. See the way the family and mother dealt with her cancer was somehow hopeful.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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