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.
From the Hardcover edition.
The inspiring story of a young man and his dying mother forming a "book club" that brings them closer as her life comes to a close—a testament to the power of love between a child and parent, and the power of reading in our lives.
Mary Anne Schwalbe was an educator who worked at Harvard University and the Dalton School in New York, and spent ten years building libraries in Afghanistan. But her story here begins at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where, accompanied by her son, she is waiting for chemotherapy treatments to begin. Will casually asks her what she's been reading, and the conversation they have grows into tradition: soon they are reading the same books in order to talk about them as Mary Anne is given her treatments. The books they read range from classic to popular, from fantastic to spiritual, and we hear their passion for reading and their love for each other in their dynamic and searching discussions around each one. A profoundly moving book: Will's love letter to his mother, and theirs to the printed page.
The inspiring story of a son and his dying mother, who form a “book club” that brings them together as her life comes to a close.
Mary Anne Schwalbe is waiting for her chemotherapy treatments when Will casually asks her what she’s reading. The conversation they have grows into tradition: soon they are reading the same books so they can have something to talk about in the hospital waiting room. The ones they choose range from classic to popular, from fantastic to spiritual, and we hear their passion for reading and their love for each other in their intimate and searching discussions.
A profoundly moving testament to the power of love between a child and parent, and the power of reading in our lives.
About the Author
WILL SCHWALBE has worked in publishing (most recently as senior vice president and editor in chief of Hyperion Books); new media, as founder of Cookstr.com; and as a journalist, writing for such publications as The New York Times and the South China Morning Post. He is on the board of Yale University Press and the Kingsborough Community College Foundation. He is the co-author with David Shipley of Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better.