9. ‘The End of Your Life Book Club’ by Will Schwalbe

My wife and I often frequent a local thrift store because it’s a fantastic place to find used books. I’m fairly sure most of the staff recognize me and know exactly the reason I’m there. When I brought this particular book up to the cashier, she looked at the title and said, “Well that’s a depressing name for a book.” Since I struggle with witty retorts, I just fake chuckled, paid my two dollars, and ran like hell. My decision to buy this book was based on two reasons: 1) I love books about book lovers, and 2) I equally love touching memoirs.

When his mother is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Will Schwalbe decides they should form their own two-person book club. While spending countless hours in hospital waiting rooms, they can read together and discuss their favorite books. Through their love of reading, Will and his mother explore this incredible world and discover several important life lessons together.

As I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but recognize the parallels between Mary Anne Schwalbe’s final year and my own mother’s decline after suffering a stroke. For months, I watched this woman who had always been such a strong and giving person slowly degenerate in both body and mind. Through my mother, I developed my strong work ethic and my love of books. Watching someone turn into a shadow of that person is heartbreaking, but it also helps you learn to appreciate every moment you have with loved ones. Like my own mother, Mary Anne Schwalbe was a superhuman who dedicated her life to giving and helping those less fortunate. This fitting tribute written during the last two years of her life serves as a great testament to all she accomplished as well as the many lives she touched. Schwalbe manages to create a stirring memoir with just the right balance of emotional insight with humor.

Thanks to this book, I’ve added so many titles to my to-be-read list. Schwalbe composes this memoir in short chapters, each dedicated what he and his mother were reading at that time. Throughout his mother’s illness, Schwalbe attempts to get her to open up about what her impending death means to her. Although some words are never really said, the lesson I learned is that books are great communicators in themselves. One of my goals for this little blog of mine was to connect everything I read to my own life. Schwalbe accomplishes this task and shows just how much books can connect us to each other. The things we read are not escapes from life, but what helps keeps us tethered to it.

This is definitely a great book, not only for book lovers, but also those of us that have lost someone close to illness.

“That’s one of the things books do. They help us talk. But they also give us something we all can talk about when we don’t want to talk about ourselves.” Have you read this book? I’d love to know your thoughts!


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