The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
Published: 2012 by Alfred A. Knopf
Source: Received Advance Reader’s Edition at Booktopia
This book has an interesting premise that made me put it on my to-read list the minute I heard about it: When Will Schwalbe’s mother, a dynamo of a woman, is diagnosed with cancer, she and Will start reading the same books and discuss them as she is undergoing chemotherapy. After a while they discover that they have their own book club, albeit with only two members.
This memoir is not so much about the books they read, but about the relationship between mother and son, especially knowing that their time left together is limited. Books were not the only thing that brought them together of course, but during the physical and emotional toll of Mary Anne Schwalbe’s treatment they provided a diversion for both of them to discuss a subject other than her illness.
It was a touching book in some ways, but I was also dissatisfied with it. I think I was expecting to have a more emotional response reading about the terrible ways cancer takes over the body and mind but it didn’t happen. It was sad and difficult, sure, but I somehow felt distanced from it and that’s not the way I wanted to feel. The way they describe the books by author instead of by title (“the Brooks” or “the Didion”) also just annoyed me for some reason.
That said, mother and son did talk about a wide range of books (listed at the back for easy reference) and I have once again added to my to-read list.