The End of your Life Book Club

Schwalbe, Will

Book - 2012
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The End of your Life Book Club
An inspiring memoir for fans of Joan Didion, Annie Lamott, and Mitch Albom, The End of Your Life Book Club is a beautiful celebration of literature and a profound testament to the ways we remember our loved ones. Mary Anne Schwalbe was a renowned educator who filled such august positions as Director of Admissions at Harvard and Director of College Counseling at New York's prestigious Dalton School. She also felt it incumbent upon herself to educate the less fortunate and spent the last 10 years of her life building libraries in Afghanistan. But her story here begins with a mocha, dispensed from a machine in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Over coffee, Will casually asks his mom what she's been reading. The conversation they have grows into tradition: soon they mutually agree to read the same books and share them together as Mary Anne waits for her chemotherapy treatments. Their discussions reveal how books become increasingly important to the connection between a remarkable woman whose life is coming to a close, and a man becoming closer to his mom than ever before.

Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780307399670
Branch Call Number: 616.994 S398e1
Characteristics: viii, 336 p. : 21 cm


From Library Staff

In this inspiring and moving memoir, Will Schwalbe tells about the last days spent with his mother as she lie in a hospital bed facing a terminal illness. Rather than wallowing in despair, mother and son decide to read the same books leading to wide-ranging honest conversations and a renewed bond... Read More »

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Dec 31, 2014
  • bibliotechnocrat rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

How does one talk to the dying? Schwalbe, waiting with his terminally ill mother through interminable doctor appointments and chemo sessions, begins a 'book club' to give their enforced inactivity a focus. They read and discuss a huge range of books, the circumstances lending a poignancy to what might otherwise be casual conversation. In part, this book is an homage to the mother bordering on hagiography. Nonetheless, it is a thought-provoking read, well worth your time.

Nov 10, 2014
  • forbesrachel rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

The title says it all. This is the account of the moments, and the books shared, between a mother and son as she approaches the end of her life. Even while undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer, Mary Anne Schwalbe continued to fight to make the lives of others better. Her spirit and wisdom permeate every inch of this book as her son Will, narrates their precious time together. Their tale speaks to the universality of books. Books bring us together through their internal humanity. We experience them, share them, and integrate their messages into our lives. They tie us with invisible threads, binding us to those we talk about it with, the author who wrote it, and even to the real or fictional characters who inhabit the pages. While the backdrop of a mother dying is certainly sad, the tone never reflects this. It is in fact more commemorative. Will remembers his mother fondly, and he strives to impart her philosophies. She sees her glass as half-full, accepts her fate, and only regrets not being able to do more. Both of them learn lessons and take solace in the books they read, and so too does this book do the same for us.

Aug 28, 2014
  • SallyMac_84 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

I loved this book. Beautifully written. A fitting tribute to books, as well as the author's extraordinary mother.

Jul 23, 2014
  • Clara_Hoover rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This is probably the best book I've read in many months and was also the discussion topic for my book club. We could have talked for hours. The book is a tribute to the author's mother. It's the story of her two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. It's the story of the author and his mother reading together and discussing books throughout this time, especially during the hours when she's in chemotherapy. There's so much good food for thought here, and it's wonderful the way the books prompt both conversation and thought.

Jul 21, 2014

This is a gem of a book for fiction lovers and a life-lesson on using time, what we have left of it, brilliantly. Read it if you want to know a lovely and wise woman and if you love books, especially fiction.

Jul 12, 2014
  • soozietrav rated this: 1.5 stars out of 5.

As I was reading this book I kept thinking of how amazing it could have been in the hands of a real writer. I got bored with his depiction of her and skipped alot of the book after page 50. Disappointing in that the author seems too blindly devoted to his mother to make her more than a one dimensional perfect martyr of a real being---you never get a sense of who she really is. His writing actually has her come across as pretentious and insincere, qualities I'm certain were far from his intent to convey. Aside from not connecting with the story ( although I have years of experience in end-of-life care), the book recommendations were solid and their voracious love of books is certainly commendable.

Mar 31, 2014
  • Liber_vermis rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

An incredible memoir of the last two years of the life of a woman who achieved so many things. Was it cruelly ironic that her final accomplishment was a library in Kabul, Afghanistan, where book clubs may not be widely tolerated? Most readers will not be able to put this memoir down until finished!

Feb 09, 2014
  • KateHillier rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

As others have said, this is a hard book to rate because of the personal subject matter. It's also mostly a son transcribing and sharing the words of his mother. She is an admirable woman and her good work is given its moments but the book is mostly about a mother and a son's relationship with books and with each other. It's also about our own relationships with books and how that helps us relate to others, known and unknown

Nov 01, 2013
  • modestgoddess rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

I've been recommending this to everyone too. Think the mother is definitely Type A - she gets so much done, even while terminally ill! Love her deep and powerful faith and the way it colours everything she does. Definitely uplifting and enjoyable. Unfortunately my holds list at the library just got a lot longer....So many books, so little time!

Oct 12, 2013
  • ser_library rated this: 1.5 stars out of 5.

i would have liked more info on the books discussed and less on the activities and meals of the family.

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Mar 12, 2013

Page 128 -
" I realized then that for all of us, part of the process of Mom's dying was mourning not just her death but also the death of our dreams of things to come. You don't really lose the person who has been; you have all those memories. ..... I was learning that when you're with someone who is dying, you may need to celebrate the past, live the present, and mourn the future all at the same time."

Jan 04, 2013
  • becker rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

“One of the many things I love about bound books is their sheer physicality. Electronic books live out of sight and out of mind. But printed books have body, presence. ... I often seek electronic books, but they never come after me. They may make me feel, but I can't feel them. They are all soul with no flesh, no texture, and no weight.”

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