Kats's Reviews > The End of Your Life Book Club

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
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Aug 20, 15

bookshelves: booktopia, memoirs, 2012, all-time-favourites, print, american, book-club-reads, cancer, non-fiction, books-about-books
Recommended to Kats by: Ann & Michael
Read from April 27 to May 25, 2012 — I own a copy

Once the excitement had worn off over receiving my first ever ARC (thank you, Ann & Michael!!), I took a closer look at what the book was actually about and realised that I was going to be in for a very emotional ride. As I've been reading it over the last month, I realised that I will not give this book away but hold on to it for good. Not only is it a real treasure trove full of excellent book recommendations, but also because I will want to reread it again for two main reasons; finding inspiration for life and finding an outlet for grief.

My mother died in 2005, aged 57, of ovarian cancer. Just over 2 years ago, my mother-in-law, aged 67, died of the same disease. Both women were avid readers and up until a few weeks before their deaths both would send me books, ask what I was reading, want to discuss something they'd just read and even send recommendations for toddler books (our older son was 18 months old at my mum's funeral). Also, in their cases (being "stiff upper lip" Northern European women of a "certain generation"), books and stories were used to convey personal messages within the family, not unlike Will Schwalbe did with his mother.
Death and dying are still taboo subjects in our society and culture, and often it was easier for us to "discuss" the impending doom and finality of the disease by ways of bringing up a storyline in a book, or a movie. I share Will Schwalbe's grief in so many ways, including the loss of our first true reading companions.

Will Schwalbe's brave descriptions of accompanying his beloved mother to many doctor's appointments and chemo sessions resonates strongly with me - unless someone has been in the same situation, smelled those hospital rooms and corridors, overanalysed the oncologist's every facial expression and been through the last weeks somewhere between wishing she could hang in there forever yet wanting her to be swiftly released from it all, it is difficult to comprehend just how wearing the whole process is.

Mary Ann(e) Schwalbe was an incredibly inspiring woman. After learning so much about her life, her many projects, political and charitable involvements, I can almost not believe that I hadn't heard of her before reading her son's book. She accomplished so many amazing things during her lifetime and whilst it's a truly corny thing to say, Mary Anne Schwalbe was one of these rare specimens of humans who actually succeeded in making the world a better place by doing "their bit" - except Mary Anne did more than a bit. Her relentless will to do good, her incessant thirst for learning about life and people, her endless empathy and kindness to those in need are not only inspiring but also a bit of an eye-opener about the self-indulgent, complacent life I lead in comparison. Looking back at Mary Anne Schwalbe's choices, decisions and achievements in her life, I can say that this book has inspired me to try and be a better person (and mother - and with any luck, I will enjoy a similarly close relationship with my sons when they are adults); well, I have a long way to go.
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Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth can't wait to see what you think of this one.

Kats And I can't wait to finish it - just had a few book club reads to get through first, almost there! But I can tell you already that it has been a very emotional read for me, so perhaps it's not a bad thing I was forced to take a break!

Just saw your 5* for "Wonder", I loved that one, too. Laughing and crying in turns throughout the book. I am thinking of suggesting it for my "genre book club" for when we have a month to discuss children's books. Not sure there is enough for a discussion amongst adults, though. What do you think?

message 3: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth kats,

check out palacio website. there are some links that have discussion. click on the one for teachers, because there are some good questions there.

i think the reaction of julian's parents would be a good thing to discuss. the fact that his mother called him "special needs" and photoshopped auggie's image out of the class picture.

you could also take into account the sister's reaction.

let me know what you think.


message 4: by Chris (last edited May 26, 2012 04:57AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chris Wow. Just wow. And you say you're not a writer?! Incredibly beautiful review. I now need a handkerchief.....

Kats Bless you for saying that. "Beautiful", I don't know, but "heart-felt", for sure, it is a very moving account of a wonderful familial relationship. But I had to take my time reading this book, it wasn't an easy journey to make again - many tears were shed along the way.

Kate Kats, what a beautiful review! I too, have made the "journey", both with my mom and my sister and you described my feelings perfectly and much more succinctly then I would have. My mother died 28 years ago and as I am getting older,I think more about her reading life as she was an avid reader. I think about all the books we could have shared - sometimes standing in a bookstore thinking "she would have loved this!" I will add this to my TBR, but will wait for just the right time when I can go on an emotional journey.

Carol Thank you Kats for sharing your love of this book, and for also for sharing a bit about your feelings about the death of your mother and mother-in-law.
Your review is perfect!

Eric Kibler Been there also.

Jennifer I needed a book that I thought would be my last of 2012 - I wanted to end the year with something I loved. Your review convinced me to finally read this book and I'm so glad that I did. I don't even know how I can review it myself when your comments are so perfect. (My only problem is that I couldn't put it down and now I need another book to close out 2012) Beautiful review, Kats

message 10: by Carol (last edited Dec 28, 2012 09:18AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Carol I think we are all ecstatic to know we can meet Will Schwalbe at Booktopia 2013. This is a book that has touched so many.

message 11: by Kats (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kats Jen, I am SO glad you found TEOYLBC to be a beautiful book, too. Happy also that you're out of your book slump. "The heart broke in" could be another one for you if you can squeeze in another "closing read" in 2012.
Thanks for your kind comments on my review - it was some time ago that I read TEOYLBC, but with Will Schwalbe being BooktopiaVT 2013's "Key Note Speaker" (apart from Ann & Michael, of course, LOL), I am hoping to re-read it come March. This book is a keeper - I can imagine re-reading it every few years.

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