In 2007, Mary Anne Schwalbe was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which already had metastasized to her liver by the time her diagnosis was made. As she began to undergo chemotherapy treatment, her son Will, then a New York publishing executive, joined her for her sessions. They discussed what they were reading to pass the time. Both avid readers, they decided to form a book club of two, sharing books while the medication dripped. They both fell in love with some books, while others were not shared joys.
THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB is one of my favorite books of the year. Will does a wonderful job of sharing his mom’s life with readers. She was a humanitarian who traveled the world in war-torn areas trying to bring right where the world was so very wrong. Through his book, we read about these adventures, as well as the many people who owed so much to her. And we get to eavesdrop on the very special bond that the two of them formed while reading together. Warning: This book is full of emotion. I confess that I was glad I was floating in the pool as I was reading, so when my own tears flowed while reading some of the ending pages, they splashed into the water.
It’s also the kind of book where you are not just building a reading list from reading it, you also are sharing the life stories. Mary Anne’s passing was a huge loss for Will’s family and the world. But what a gift to see how these books they shared came to be such a part of the story of her last years. After she passed away, Will found a stack of books that she planned to suggest they read. It was like she was leaving him a reading game plan for the future.