"While we are reading, we are all Don Quixote." ~ Mason Cooley

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

I'm back - haven't blogged, simply because....I haven't.  Have been reading though.   With the heat in Utah, and the hiatus of many activities I otherwise engage in, I've been on a reading marathon these past three months.  Such luxury!

In fact, have read a couple books a week, several short stories, magazines, blogs.  Fiction and non-fiction. Some memorable and some I gave up on after only a few pages.  The best, the highlight of my summer, the work that most engaged me, that most moved me was The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe.

My synopsis will be brief - (this book is more than adequately introduced, outlined and reviewed elsewhere).  It is the recounting of the author's last months with his mother as they coped with her treatment for pancreatic cancer and eventual death.  It is a tribute to an incredible woman, their relationship, the informal book club of two that they created, the books they read and discussed and the insights Schwalbe got in the process.

What I want to share here is why this book has touched me so - why, though I read it on my Kindle, I bought a copy to place on the shelf that holds the dozen or so books that have impacted me most over my lifetime.  In no order of importance -
  • "Mom" was a phenomenal woman.  Intelligent, courageous, compassionate, committed - she was the founding director of the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, only one of several accomplishments in her life, including the raising of three children.  The kind of woman I would have loved to spend an afternoon with.  Getting to know her through the eyes of a loving son, through her responses to the various books, to get a glimpse of the woman, not just her accomplishments - I particularly enjoyed this aspect of the book.
  • Will - well suffice it to say that had I had a son, I would hope he would write, speak of me, remember me with the obvious love and respect that he conveys throughout this book.  It is, indeed, a tribute.
  • Being an avid reader, I was enthralled by the literary discursions.  Some of their choices I had already read - The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Olive Kitteridge, Crossing to Safety among others.  And admittedly, I was more than just a bit pleased that I often shared their reactions. Their opinions regarding other books, sometimes very divergent, intrigued me enough that I have already downloaded a couple.  Others, I'll skip, thank you!
  • I found the style and the tone of the book to be very accessible.  Having had cancer myself, and caring for my husband during his bout with cancer, I was grateful for the honest, yet circumspect way in which Schwalbe relates both treatment and death - never maudlin, never gratuitous.  Not that I didn't cry - well, truthfully wept.  But I also laughed, out loud belly laughs. 
A final note - after I wiped away the last tear, I called my brother in Wisconsin, the most well-read individual I know, who constantly is calling me to read something he has just completed.  I asked him to read this and tell me what he thought of it.  Which he did - and called me within a couple days to say he loved it, so much so that he had just bought a copy to bring to a high school buddy who had recently lost his mother.  I plunged in, asking if he would consider creating our own book club (no, neither of us is dying, but we are close, value each other's opinions,  and getting on in years).  And held my breath wondering if he would consider my request an obligation.  Not only did he readily agreed, but so has our sister.

To be drawn to think, to feel, to relate, and to take action - doesn't get much better than that for me!