Posted in Books

Book Review: The End of Your Life Book Club, by Will Schwalbe

Death is something that’s inevitable, and sooner or later, finds us. We hope we are at peace when it seeks us out, but that’s not always the case. No matter who we are, the news that our time in this wonderful world will soon be at an end affects us, and those who value us in life.

I have seen people succumb to this dreaded illness called cancer, and others fighting tooth and nail against it. I’ve even read books that bring out that battle. While we can take pride in them seeing that battle, it’s also a struggle to see them in that state. I’ve always vouched for the therapeutic power that books hold, and this book, The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, reinforces that belief infinitely.

Mary Anne Schwalbe becomes sick after she returns from a trip to Afghanistan. While it’s usual for that to happen, it becomes concerning when she remains sick for a while. When Will is at a book fair abroad, he gets the news that she might have cancer. The book describes her journey from that moment till her final moments. The Schwalbes have always been avid readers. Mary Anne and Will love opening lines of novels, talk about books they read etc. They begin deciding on a book they both will read, so they can talk about it when they meet during her doctor’s appointments. Thus is formed an impromptu two-member book club.

When we’re savoring a book, we don’t really want the book to end. For this book, this is true for a couple of reasons. The first is because as I read the story of mother and son, and see them bond over books, I am drawn into their world, as well as the world of those books. I imagine myself as a fly on the wall of Memorial Sloan-Kettering or their house, listening to them talk, and then somehow being transported to a market in Baghdad or a Pakistani countryside. Even after I’ve finished reading, I find myself hunting for many passages that I remember or books which they read that I want to read soon as well. The second reason is that I know that the end of this book will bring an end, and having walked through the book with the mother and son, I don’t feel like the journey has been long enough. And as I neared the end, I found a bit of sadness tingeing my thoughts.

Just a word of caution: this book isn’t only about books that Will and Mary Anne read and talk about. The thoughts on those are minimal perhaps. It’s how the two of them come together over books while she battles pancreatic cancer. They say life is 10% of what happens and 90% of how you choose to react to it. I loved how positive the woman stays through her ordeal, knowing very well that it’s a matter of when, not if. She reads more books; she connects with her family and friends more, and doesn’t relent on the work she is passionate about. She sets her affairs in order well before the final call comes. If you begin to read this book thinking it’s prominently about a discussion on books, you’ll be disappointed.

Some books were perhaps meant to find me, and leave me shell-shocked in the way they bring beauty into my life. This book is one such, and though I’m not sure whether it found me or the other way around, I’m glad to have read this book which is as much about life as it is about the magic of books.

A Score Of 9 Out Of 10
Book Details
Title: The End of Your Life Book Club
Author(s): Will Schwalbe Genre: Non-Fiction
ISBN/ASIN: 9781444706383 Publisher: Two Roads Books

No payment was taken for this review. The views expressed here are mine, and they remain uninfluenced and unbiased.

(© Vinay Leo R. @ A Bookworm’s Musing
11th February 2018)



Poetry and writing are to me, a breath of fresh air in a life that is sometimes covered by the smoke of sorrow or self doubt. They also become the sweets I share to celebrate when life offers me a reason to. But most of all, they are to me, my life. For each word I write is a piece of my heart, a thought that just had to find its way into the world.

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