Review - The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalb

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The End of Your Life Book Club
By Will Schwalbe
Released: October 2nd, 2012
Genre: Non-Fiction/Memoir
Source: Advanced Reader Copy

Going into The End of Your Like Bookclub, by Will Schwalbe, I knew this would be a book that had the potential to move a reader. Most notably, I expected, through tears. The title gives little to the reader’s imagination as to the outcome of Mary Anne’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis. We all, even as readers who just pick up the book, know that she will die throughout the course of the book. I expected the book to be a tear-jerker, one that I would have to put down for a time and move on to cheerier things before I picked it back up and continued.

Although some of the content in the book is saddening – after all, discussing the closing of someone’s life is never easy – I was thoroughly surprised by the amount of humor and spirit was in the book. Yes, it was the tale of a dying woman and her son, but it was also a celebration of her life as well. As I read, I came to feel as if I knew Mary Anne intimately. She’s a strong woman with amazing character and bravery, even if she repeatedly denies such claims in the book. Throughout the book, you learn of many of Mary Anne’s projects and passions – most of which have to do with aiding third-world countries and their inhabitants – and you grow to have a deep respect for her. This book moves you, but not only just to tears. It inspires you to be a better person, more aware of others and their needs. As well as the knowledge that just one smile can change not only a person’s outlook, but also their life.

The author, Will Schwalbe, tells his mother’s story with surprising clarity. Throughout the course of the story, he is dealt blows that many of us can relate to. Having had family who has battled cancer before, I could personally relate to Will’s troubles concerning his mother’s health. When is it appropriate to ask if she was okay? Should he simple ask if she wanted to talk about how he was feeling? Should he cut trips and vacations short in favor of spending more time with his mother, knowing it will only cause her pain to see him going out of his way? These are all questions that people who have dealt with an ill family member can relate to. His writing style, thought admittedly slow at times, is very beautiful and poignant.

This book will certainly have a permanent place on my bookshelf. Anyone who enjoys a love for reading – which was shared by both mother and son in this book – will enjoy The End of Your Life Book Club. It reminds us that books not only have the power to teach us, but also to change us.

This book is an Advance Reader’s Edition and was provided by Knopf for reviewing purposes.  

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