If you liked Tuesdays with Morrie, you’ll like this one. And if you are committed enough to reading to be in a book club, you’ll like this one. But what is the definition of ‘book club’? Not what you might think. In this case, all ‘book club’ really means is two people in conversation after having read the same book. That lets almost everyone in.
This is not a sad book. It is a poignant yet compelling memoir written by a loving son chronicling the end of his mother’s life. It’s a book about finding hope and joy in the midst of mortality. And it’s about the incredible power of books in our lives, affecting our thinking and stimulating our conversation.
Will and Mary Ann Schwalbe began an informal ‘book club’ simply by reading the same books and discussing them. It was something that just happened when Mary Ann found herself with pancreatic cancer and Will found himself spending time with her during treatments. He recounts conversations, mentions book titles they enjoyed, shares his feelings and her reactions to a variety of literary works. It is open and honest about what their family went through after their mother’s diagnosis of a disease that was “treatable but not curable”, an important distinction she makes.
The title is not The End of “Her” Life Book Club. The use of the word Your is deliberate. You (and I), even if perfectly healthy, have no idea when we might be reading our last book or having our last conversation. Although we don’t usually dwell on that, it is absolutely true.
There is a lot of wisdom in this book. Here are some notable quotes:
“…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.”
“The world is complicated…You don’t have to have one emotion at a time.”
This book did not cost me anything initially, because a good friend gave it to me (thanks Nandy!). But it did cost me in the end because I was compelled to order three more books which the Schwalbe’s made irresistible. They are: Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner, The Etiquette of Illness by Susan Halpern, and Daily Strengths for Daily Needs by Mary Tileston.