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The End of Your Life Book Club Paperback – June 4, 2013
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2012: Tissues at the ready, I braced myself for The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe’s memoir of his mother’s death from pancreatic cancer. But Mary Anne Schwalbe is such a fierce, unsentimental heroine--and her son such a frank and funny storyteller--that what could have been an emotional roller coaster turns out to be a beautifully paced ride. Mary Anne loves a good book as ardently as she loves her kids and her causes, chief among them a campaign to build a library in Afghanistan. When her health starts to fail, Will joins her for hospital appointments. They wait, they talk, and they read together--everything they’ve ever wanted to discuss. As much an homage to literature as to the mother who shared it with him, Will’s chronicle of this heartrending time opens up his captivating family to the rest of us. We should all be so lucky as to read along with the Schwalbes. --Mia Lipman
Amazon Exclusive: An Essay by Will Schwalbe
For twenty-one years I worked in book publishing, mostly in editorial, acquiring the rights to manuscripts, working with authors to help shape their works, and trying to convince the world to pay attention to the various, wonderful books we were publishing. I learned from some of the all time great editors and publishers. But part of my publishing education went way, way back – to before I could read a word myself.
When I was a young child, before I went to sleep, my mother, like so many parents, would read me a book. My brother, eighteen months older, got his own book read to him. Later, my sister, four years younger, would have her own.
My mother was a working mother (a phrase she always disliked, as she rightly pointed out that no one talks of “working fathers”), so she wasn’t always home at night. She sometimes worked late, and she travelled for business, and, even when she and my dad were in town, they occasionally were out for dinner. But if she was home, she read us each a book before bed.
My early favorites included The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf and Harold and Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. I loved that there was a bull who liked to smell flowers and wouldn’t fight, and I was amazed by the boy who could draw himself out of any jam. But the experience was far more than the books themselves. First, there was the comfort and security of being tucked into bed. (Is it coincidence that we use the phrase “tuck into” before three of my favorite things: food, bed, and good books, or is it because the pleasures of each have so much in common?) Then, there was the happy, selfish knowledge that, when it was my turn, I would be able to monopolize my mother’s attention just by sitting and listening.
But what I remember most is the way Mom made us feel that she was sharing something she loved with us, not completing a chore or performing a ritual. (Though I’m sure there were many nights when she was exhausted and would have loved to be in bed herself and fast asleep.) And when we shared the books, we also shared discussions about them. Why didn’t the men understand that Ferdinand just didn’t want to fight? There’s no one answer, but it’s a question Mom and I explored together time and again.
Later, I would start to read to myself of course. But it was the nightly reading with Mom that helped me become a reader – and probably pushed me toward the career in book publishing. From Mom, I learned that there’s a public pleasure in books as well as a private one; that sharing books you love and getting others to read them can create a powerful bond, not just between a parent and child, but among thousands or millions of strangers.
“A graceful, affecting testament to a mother and a life well lived.” —Entertainment Weekly, Grade A
“Schwalbe . . . highlights not just how relevant but how integral literature can be to life.” —The Washington Post
“[This] book is robust with love and laughter.” —Chicago Tribune
“Not only a son’s heartfelt tribute to [his mother’s] courage and grace but vivid testimony to the enduring power of books to create meaning out of chaos, illuminate values, and connect us with each other.” —The Boston Globe
“A loving celebration of a mother by a son.” —The New York Times Book Review
“A book that is expressly about books, about the purpose and pleasures of books, and the ways they connect us even as we read them as a solitary pursuit. . . . [It’s also] about, in part, the consolations we can find in art, books in particular, as we struggle to face the terrible awareness of our own mortality.” —The Plain Dealer
“Moving.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“An account of growing up in a bookish, artistic family, and a touching portrait of his energetic mother. . . . The [reading] choices that emerge are not a bucket list but an engagingly eclectic mixture of current and vintage, literary and commercial.” —The New Yorker
“Uplifting. . . . So much life is lived, and such powerful lessons are shared on this family’s journey that the reader can’t help but be moved and motivated.” —Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Schwalbe’s enthusiasm turns out to be contagious. As I was reading I found myself scribbling titles on a piece of paper so that I could order the volumes he and his mother cared about. Schwalbe is not just an avid reader, he is also an advocate, a cheerleader, a disciple.” —Rachel Shteir, The New York Times
“A warm reminder why we read and what our reading says about us and the ways we connect with others.” —The Columbus Dispatch
“Completely engaging and difficult to put down. Hearing Schwalbe recount the effects that one selfless and loving person can have on the world is sad without being depressing, and deeply inspirational on a personal level to every imaginable reader.” —The Independent
“Touching and rigorously honest, this memoir is wise about the role reading plays in our lives and deaths.”—Slate
“The most moving memoir of the year.” —Sacramento Bee
“A tribute to a remarkable woman and an examplary reader.” —Salon
“A gentle, searingly moving memoir, at once a love letter and a generous, incisive set of instructions not about how to die but about how to live.” —More
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Top customer reviews
The story is very sensitive. The author discusses many of the issues involved in end of life care. Seemingly simple questions, such as how one is feeling right now are evaluated. I found this personally valuable as I tend to be socially inept. The writing is of a modern style and flows easily. I listened it the book on audiobook while reading at the same time. The book would in most ways be an "easy listen" without contemporaneous visual reading except there are a lot of foreign names and locations mentioned.
The author's mother had spent her life in various international projects and dealing with issues such as refugees, among other things. The author provided a good deal of information about many of these projects and issues, that I found very educational.
As I anticipated, there was also a good deal of discussion about literature. As a lifelong reader, I am always interested in evaluating and comparing my reading experience and interests with others. I will tell you I learned a good deal about a good many authors and works with which I was not heretofore familiar. I purchased several works based on the literature discussed in this work. Coincidentally I am reading the works of Herman Wouk in chronological order. I had actually recently decided to skip a novel, "Marjorie Morningstar". I had never heard anyone discuss that book, ever.... Then that book came up in this work. I have changed my mind and purchased it and it is my next Herman Wouk book that I am going to read, although not immediately.
In summary, I found he book to be very illuminating and educational while being very warm and sensitive. I enjoyed it very much and am very glad I had a chance to read it.