Thursday, September 13, 2012

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

ISBN-10: 0307594033 - Hardcover $25.00
Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (October 2, 2012), 352 pages.

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Prime Program.

Will Schwalbe's mother is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after having battled breast cancer years earlier. This time Mary Ann Schwalbe's prognosis is much worse. In the early days of her treatment, Mary Ann and Will find themselves discussing books - from books that they'd read to books that they're currently reading and those that they choose to read together. Of course, their discussions about books are also about the characters, the dilemmas that they face, and how best to live one's life.

The End of Your Life Book Club is a lovely and moving tribute to Will's mother. Mary Ann Schwalbe is an amazing woman in her own right. We learn of her accomplishments as a young Radcliffe graduate, the first woman to head the Admissions office at Harvard and Radcliffe, and a devoted and accomplished figure in the area of Refugee rights - all of which are impressive and enough to draw you in. Mary Ann Schwalbe's other accomplishments are less easily listed but perhaps even more unforgettable. Will paints a clear picture of a woman of unconventional grace and generosity of spirit. She is determined to make a difference, to bring hope and to be a force of good - it sounds strange but when you learn about Mary Ann Schwalbe, it's hard not to see her as someone for whom doing the right thing is an essential part of her life. She is unfailingly generous to those who need help while invariably forgoing cabs for NYC buses. It's so difficult to describe what I loved about the book. I loved learning about Mary Ann and the things that moved her. Reading about her courage, her stoicism and her grace throughout her struggle with cancer was particularly poignant. As a bookworm, I found the conversations about the books fascinating as well and have copied down the list of books that Will and Mary Ann Schwalbe read.

Mary Ann Schwalbe reminded me of my mother - someone who loves people, finds them interesting, and who will give unstintingly. I came to care for Mary Ann Schwalbe deeply and am grateful to Will for writing this book, for sharing these moments and memories of a woman of extraordinary courage, grace, and heart.

About the Author:
Will Schwalbe, founder of, has worked in publishing (most recently as senior vice president and editor in chief of Hyperion Books); in new media; and as a journalist, writing for various publications including The New York Times.  He is the coauthor with David Shipley of Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better.

1 comment:

  1. This book is a joyful tribute, to Mary Anne of course, to Will and his love for her, and to books, their shared passion. This book was a gift to us from them both. Read it, share it.