The End of Your Life Book Club
The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe is what I would call a gem.
This beautiful tribute to an amazing woman starts off in 2007 when Mary Ann Schwalbe is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Throughout her treatments, she is often accompanied by her son, Will, where they often discussed the many books they read. Soon a private book club for two was born.
They go on reading one book after the other, discussing them whenever they meet.
I am so happy to have picked this book up as it has done what I believe every book should do – make you think and feel. For every discussion, every opinion Mary or Will had of a passage or book, I found myself analyzing it and creating an opinion of my own (when possible). It also surprised me how much I was able to learn about Mary and Will by their choices of books or their opinions on them. I loved finding out a little more about them with every book they read.
As I learned more and more about these wonderful people, my admiration and respect for them grew. Mary Ann has such a beautiful way of seeing every situation – good or bad. Her optimistic approach to life had me reassessing my own attitude. Too often have I approached life in a pessimistic way and I have been through much less than Mary has throughout her life. One particular passage resonated with me in regards to this subject.
I thought back to a dramatic story I’d been told at college by a man who’d spent more than twenty years in a Chinese prison. I always pondered it (or, rather, my probably not-entirely-acurate recollection of it) when I needed to remind myself that good news and bad news are often relative to your expectations, not anything absolute.
This man had joined the CIA right out of Yale, during the Korean War, and then been shot down over China during his first mission and captured. He’d fully come to terms with the fact he might be sentenced to several years in jail there and was praying that his sentence would be less than five years. That he could handle. But he would be devastated should it be more. After two years, in solitary confinement, he was called into a courtroom with a whole bunch of prisoners. They would all have their sentence read, one after the other. He described hearing the first sentence: death. The the second: death. And All of a sudden, he found himself praying for life in prison. He could handle that. Life in prison was indeed the sentence he got – and he was delighted. (p.147)
When we aren’t taking part of a book discussion, we learn about Mary Ann’s challenging but impressive life. This woman has done more than her share in the world and it seems she never felt she did enough. Through her numerous achievements, she has helped a great deal of people and touched many lives.
The End Of Your Life Book Club is a beautiful book than anyone but especially book lovers will embrace. It’s a well written, well executed tribute to a woman whose courage and grace is astonishing by her loving son who, through the private book club, got to discover another side to his mother.
“That’s one of the amazing things great books like this do – they don’t just get you to see the world differently, they get you to look at people, the people all around you, differently.”
― Will Schwalbe, The End of Your Life Book Club