Summary and book reviews of The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

The End of Your Life Book Club

By Will Schwalbe

The End of Your Life Book Club
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Oct 2012,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Jun 2013,
    352 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

The inspiring story of a son and his dying mother, who form a "book club" that brings them together as her life comes to a close.

Mary Anne Schwalbe is waiting for her chemotherapy treatments when Will casually asks her what she's reading. The conversation they have grows into tradition: soon they are reading the same books so they can have something to talk about in the hospital waiting room. The ones they choose range from classic to popular, from fantastic to spiritual, and we hear their passion for reading and their love for each other in their intimate and searching discussions.

A profoundly moving testament to the power of love between a child and parent, and the power of reading in our lives.

Join The End of Your Life Book Club community on Facebook
and BookBrowse's discussion at bookbrowse.com/booktalk

Crossing to Safety

We were nuts about the mocha in the waiting room at Memorial Sloan-­Kettering's outpatient care center. The coffee isn't so good, and the hot chocolate is worse. But if, as Mom and I discovered, you push the"mocha" button, you see how two not-­very-­good things can come together to make something quite delicious. The graham crackers aren't bad either.

The outpatient care center is housed on the very pleasant fourth floor of a handsome black steel and glass office building in Manhattan on the corner of 53rd Street and Third Avenue. Its visitors are fortunate that it's so pleasant, because they spend many hours there. This is where people with cancer wait to see their doctors and to be hooked up to a drip for doses of the life-­prolonging poison that is one of the wonders of the modern medical world. By the late autumn of 2007, my mother and I began meeting there regularly.

Our book club got its formal start with the mocha and one of the ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Does this book have a central theme? What is it?

  2. Why does Mary Anne always read a book’s ending first? How does this reflect her character?

  3. Early in the book, Will writes, “I wanted to learn more about my mother’s life and the choices she’d made, so I often steered the conversation there. She had an agenda of her own, as she almost always did. It took me some time, and some help, to figure it out.” (page 6) What was Mary Anne’s agenda?

  4. Mary Anne underlined a passage in Seventy Verses on Emptiness, which resonated with Will: “Permanent is not; impermanent is not; a self is not; not a self [is not]; clean is not; not clean is not; happy is not; suffering is not.” Why did this strike both of ...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about The End of Your Life Book Club. Join the discussion! You can see the full discussion here.

Article and picture of author and mother in USA Today
dorothyt, I was debating on whether to comment on Will's good looks - if it was appropriate or not - and since you did I feel free to say I think he's adorable! ;-p Lisa - lisag

Audio version of EOYLFB
I love CD books for long car rides but my commute to work is all of about five minutes. I know, you hate me! When I had to drive back and forth to grad school (an hour each way) time went so quickly listening to books. I loved that. I also have "... - lisag

Books as a bridge
Friendships and conversations can easily be started with, "Have you read - - - -". Books can also give understanding of problems and examples for solutions in problem discussion. I have formed friendships over books and had grand times in book ... - jacquelynh

Does Mary Anne ever think of herself as brave?
Paula, I'm sure Will would just point to his mother as an example of bravery and I agree with your definition of brave. It's about not letting anything stop you from pursuing your dream, no matter how scared you may feel and despite limiting factors... - lisag

How did the realization that "we're all in the end-of-our-life book club, whether we acknowledge it or not," affect Will's final days with his mom?
I hope it made him appreciate each day more that he had with her. - bettyt

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
  • award image

Reviews

BookBrowse

Will Schwalbe's heart-wrenching memoir is difficult to categorize. It is at once a paean to his beloved mother, a treatise on the power of reading, and a handbook on how to live - and die. With direct prose and unflinching courage in the face of sadness, Schwalbe recreates the final months of his mother's life, offering a wealth of insight into how the written word can connect lives.   (Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).

Full Review Members Only (1048 words).

Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

In a heartfelt tribute to his mother, Schwalbe illustrates the power of the written word to expand our knowledge of ourselves and others.

Publisher's Weekly

Starred Review. With a refreshing forthrightness, and an excellent list of books included, this is an astonishing, pertinent, and wonderfully welcome work.

Author Blurb Dr. Sherwin Nuland, author of The Art of Aging and How We Die
Will Schwalbe's lyrical tribute to a life well-lived and a death graced with love and literature is a precious gift bestowed on all of us. What a unique and beautiful book this is, and how privileged we are to have it.

Author Blurb J.R. Moehringer, author of The Tender Bar
Will Schwalbe's brave and soulful elegy to his remarkable mother, his recollection of their sparklingly literate conversations, is a timely reminder that one exceptional person, or one exceptional book, can be a torch in the darkness. You'll turn the last page wishing you'd met Mary Anne Schwalbe, vowing to be worthy of her incandescent example - and promising yourself to read more.

Author Blurb Edmund de Waal, author of The Hare with the Amber Eyes
I was so moved by this marvelous book. Schwalbe has done something extraordinary: made a personal journey public in the most engaging, funny and revealing way possible. It is a true meditation on what books can do.

Author Blurb David Rohde, co-author of A Rope and a Prayer
This book is a passionate, purposeful and elegant guide to human existence. Living life, learning life and loving life. And ultimately, accepting life's end. Mary Anne and Will have given us an exquisite gift. For a better life, better family and better world, read this moving elegy from a gifted and loving son to an extraordinary mother.

Author Blurb Cecelia Ahern, author of P.S. I Love You
Will Schwalbe gives us two love stories in one: that of his relationship with his dynamo of a mother as her horizons shrink, and that of their mutual devotion to the printed word, infinitely and insistently engaging. Tender and touching and beautifully done." - Stacy Schiff, author of Cleopatra "At last a book that celebrates the role books play within our own story. Will Schwalbe has created a tender, moving and honest portrayal of the precious relationship between a mother and son—an ode to that beautiful thing called love.

Reader Reviews
Nathalie

Well written and touching
I was not looking forward to reading this book for my own book group: I just lost yet another family member to cancer. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the way it was written. The author has written a beautiful inspiring tribute to his...   Read More

JeanT

Disappoining Book Club
I approached this book with much anticipation after having read all the reviews. Perhaps it's just me, but I found the book interesting, but not compelling. I would have hoped for more depth in the discussion of the various books' relevance to the ...   Read More

Louise Jolly

The End of Your Life Book Club - You'll Love It!!
Will Schwalbe has done a remarkable job with this novel, touching on the real feelings and issues surrounding the process of a close family member dying. They way in which this mother and son chose to deal with the heartbreak was truly amazing and ...   Read More

Diane S.

The End of your lilfe book club
A book about a dying woman could be extremely melancholy and I will admit to having teary eyes at various points in this book. Yet, this book is so much more, it is a celebration of a life that was lived well, a life that helped other people, the ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

The Women's Refugee Commission

Mary Anne Schwalbe Mary Anne Schwalbe was a woman of many careers. She was a high school teacher; head of admissions at Harvard; and a founder, and later, director of the Women's Refugee Commission. Her work with the WRC was something she was passionate about through the end of her life.

Founded in 1989 (and initially called the Women's Commission), the Women's Refugee Commission's mission is to improve the lives of women and children refugees around the world. The commission points out that four out of five of the world's nearly 45 million displaced people are women, children and young people. Most of these women and children are in long-term displacement situations that could last up to 17 years. Through research and fact-finding field missions, the WRC ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The End of Your Life Book Club, try these:

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Pope and Mussolini
    The Pope and Mussolini
    by David I. Kertzer
    The Pope and Mussolini is a riveting account of the parallel rise to power of the authoritarian ...
  • Book Jacket: The Promise
    The Promise
    by Ann Weisgarber
    Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame, once wrote that "...all things ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Moon
    Black Moon
    by Kenneth Calhoun
    The popularity of book-turned-movie World War Z and television series The Walking Dead points to a ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Steady Running of the Hour

The Steady Running of the Hour

"Exciting, emotionally engaging and amibtious. I loved it!" - Kate Mosse

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I T T O A Eye

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.