Of Books and Reading: A Review of The End of Your Life Book Club

Share this Post

Table of Contents

Will Schwalbe’s “The End of Your Life Book Club” is a poignant memoir that explores love, loss, and the transformative power of literature, though its themes invite a bittersweet reading experience for many. However, for me, it was initially a rather slow read compared to Steal Like an Artist (Check my review of that here). Knowing from the outset that Mary Anne Schwalbe’s courageous battle with pancreatic cancer would end in her passing created an anticipatory sense of grief. The knowledge that the heartwarming mother-son discussions facilitated by books would be finite brought back memories of personal losses, making it difficult to immerse myself in their story.

Despite this initial hesitancy, the book gradually captured my heart. It reinforced a conviction I’ve long held: classics offer a depth and nuance that often surpasses contemporary works. The selections Mary Anne and Will discuss range from timeless masterpieces to modern reflections on various subjects. Their conversations illuminated my appreciation for these works, encouraging me to revisit certain classics or discover ones I’d missed. This renewed appreciation for the classics was a welcome byproduct of Schwalbe’s moving memoir.

Lessons from “The End of Your Life Book Club”

Beyond its touching themes of love and loss, the book offers profound insights into the nature of reading and the conversations it facilitates. Here are three key ones;

Reading allows us to see the world from new perspectives

Great literature goes beyond time and individual experience. When we immerse ourselves in the lives of characters – whether fictional or historical – we gain invaluable perspectives. Mary Anne and Will’s discussions illustrate this beautifully. They read stories about real and imagined people. This helped them understand difficult feelings and connect with others. I’d say it even gave their challenges and joys, context and meaning.

Books are tools for conversation, sparking questions rather than delivering answers

Often, the most meaningful takeaway from a book isn’t a concrete answer, but a thought-provoking question. Will’s observation – “I came to realize that the greatest gift of our book club was that it gave me time and opportunity to ask her things, not tell her things” – perfectly encapsulates this. Books become springboards for open-ended exploration, facilitating genuine dialogue and a deeper understanding of one another’s perspectives.

Reading holds transformative power

This power manifests in many ways. Reading can offer solace in difficult times, expand our intellectual horizons, and create connections based on the shared experience of reading. Mary Anne and Will’s story is a testament to this enduring truth. Their literary journey provides comfort amidst hardship, stimulates their minds as they grapple with complex themes, and offers a precious medium to forge an even deeper connection during a profoundly challenging time.

Beyond these tangible lessons, the book raises a profound question that resonates long after the last page is turned.

The Question of Fate

In the chapter ‘Appointment in Samarra’, Schwalbe recounts a classic tale about a merchant and his servant who encounters Death. The servant flees to a distant city, hoping to escape his fate, only to learn that Death had an appointment with him there all along. This tale left me pondering: What is fate? What is predetermined? Does destiny dictate the length of our lives, or merely the circumstances surrounding our inevitable demise?

The book provides no simple answers. Instead, it invites a contemplation of the age-old struggle between free will and determinism, adding a layer of philosophical depth to an already moving memoir.

If the power of literature and love in the face of loss resonates with you, I urge you to pick up ‘The End of Your Life Book Club’. And if you would like to share with me your thoughts about fate, please use the comments – let’s continue the conversation there.

P.S: Image from Penguin Random House

Share this Post
Stay updated with us.

Join our newsletter to stay informed of latest updates and up coming events.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Explore More
Scroll to Top