I’ve been holding off writing this review for about a week now. Usually this happens to me when a book has failed to capture my interest or excite me in any way, but that is exactly the opposite of what Will Schwalbe’s new memoir did to me! To put it quite simply, I’ve been so touched and awed that I’ve been left utterly speechless! The memoir focuses on Schwalbe’s relationship with his mother, Mary Anne, during her battle with cancer, and the informal book club that the two formed together during long waits at the hospital and her chemo treatments. What emerges is a heartfelt and inspiring story that will leave readers with a smile on their face as they gently wipe away the tears from their eyes.
As a bookaholic, I’ll admit that the first thing that attracted me to Schwalbe’s memoir was its focus on the way in which books can impact the lives of everyday readers. And when it came to the bookish details of the story I was not disappointed! I found myself nodding along as he brought up novels that I was already familiar with, and hastily grabbed a pencil to jot down titles that I had not yet heard of. It was ultimately the story of Schwalbe’s mother, however, that fascinated me the most. An advocate for refugees, Mary Anne spent years of her life travelling to war torn countries to help others achieve a better life. Her dedication to the causes that she believed in and concern for the needs of others right up until her death made me really re-evaluate my own priorities in life.
My only complaint about The End of Your Life Book Club is that it can be a bit of a slow read at times. On the flip side, however, I don’t really think that this is a book that is meant to be read quickly. Rather, The End of Your Life Book Club is a story that should be read slowly so that readers can truly savour the impact of Schwalbe’s words and the power of the relationship between him and his mother. Overall, The End of Your Life Book Club will make you laugh and cry, and by the end of the novel you’ll feel like you have become a part of Will and Mary Anne’s book club along with them. If you love books then this is definitely a novel that you need to read!
Rating: 5 Stars
“There was one sure way to avoid being assigned an impromtu chore in our house – be it taking out the trash or cleaning your room – and that was to have your face buried in a book. Like churches during the Middle Ages, book conferred instant sanctuary. Once you entered one, you couldn’t be disturbed.” (pg. 68)
“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. Sure, sometimes they’ll elude you by hiding in improbable places: in a box of old picture frames, say, or in the laundry basket, wrapped in a sweatshirt. But at other times they’ll confront you, and you’ll literally stumble over some tomes you hadn’t thought about in weeks or years. 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. They can get in your head but can’t whack you upside it.” (pg. 43)