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The End of Your Life Book Club (Vintage)by Will Schwalbe
Synopses & Reviews
“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.
"In a heartfelt tribute to his mother, Schwalbe illustrates the power of the written word to expand our knowledge of ourselves and others." Kirkus Reviews
"This touching and insightful memoir [will] appeal to readers of Tuesdays with Morrie and The Last Lecture, but also to people who love delving into books and book discussions....While it is a story about death, it is mostly a celebration of life and of the way books can enrich it." Booklist (starred)
"With a refreshing forthrightness, and an excellent list of books included, this is an astonishing, pertinent, and wonderfully welcome work." Publishers Weekly (starred)
“A graceful, affecting testament to a mother and a life well lived.” Entertainment Weekly
“Schwalbe...highlights not just how relevant but how integral literature can be to life.” The Washington Post
“[This] book is robust with love and laughter.” Chicago Tribune
“Not only a son’s heartfelt tribute to [his mother’s] courage and grace but vivid testimony to the enduring power of books to create meaning out of chaos, illuminate values, and connect us with each other.” The Boston Globe
“A book that is expressly about books, about the purpose and pleasures of books, and the ways they connect us even as we read them as a solitary pursuit....[It’s also] about, in part, the consolations we can find in art, books in particular, as we struggle to face the terrible awareness of our own mortality.” The Plain Dealer
“An account of growing up in a bookish, artistic family, and a touching portrait of his energetic mother....The [reading] choices that emerge are not a bucket list but an engagingly eclectic mixture of current and vintage, literary and commercial.” The New Yorker
“Schwalbe’s enthusiasm turns out to be contagious. As I was reading I found myself scribbling titles on a piece of paper so that I could order the volumes he and his mother cared about. Schwalbe is not just an avid reader, he is also an advocate, a cheerleader, a disciple.” Rachel Shteir, The New York Times
“Touching and rigorously honest, this memoir is wise about the role reading plays in our lives and deaths.” Slate
An Entertainment Weekly and BookPage Best Book of the Year
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.
About the Author
Will Schwalbe has worked in publishing (most recently as senior vice president and editor in chief of Hyperion Books); digital media, as the founder and CEO of Cookstr.com; and as a journalist, writing for various publications including The New York Times and the South China Morning Post. He is on the boards of Yale University Press and the Kingsborough Community College Foundation. He is the coauthor, with David Shipley, of Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better.
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