by Brittany Miller – Features Editor
‘What are you reading?’
This is the simple question that can spark an unlimited amount of conversations. For Will and Mary Anne Schwalbe, this is the one question that reignites the connection between mother and son in “The End of Your Life Book Club” by Will Schwalbe (354 pages, $10.96)
‘What are you reading?’ This one question he asks his mother in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in 2007.
When Will and Mary Anne discover that they are reading the same book, they form their very own book club that brings them together throughout the duration of the story, even as Mary’s life is coming to a close.
Throughout the next two years, the mother and son carry various conversations starting from the many books they have read to the deeply personal moments of their lives.
What was remarkable for me as a reader was their passion for reading opened up an opportunity to learn not only more about them as characters in the book, but it shows how much they learn about each other despite already being mother and son. When they discuss the literary side of things, their ‘love to read’ list jumps from classic novels to mysteries from poetry to spiritual, almost making the reader feel that they are in the book club with them.
Though their conversations about different works of literature was what enticed me, what took a hold of me as a reader was the emotional and personal discussions that take place in the novel
Mary Anne and Will discuss topics such as faith, gratitude and courage throughout “The End of Your Life Book Club,” which reminds readers how everything has come together. This isn’t a story about a loved one dying, this is a story about finding something you’re passionate about and using it as a motivation to keep living.
Throughout the book Mary Anne provided advice to Will about talent and always pushing yourself to be the best, and one of the many quotes that stuck was on p. 293.
“Everyone doesn’t have to do everything,” she told me. “People forget you can also express yourself by what you choose to admire and support. I’ve had so much pleasure from beautiful and challenging things created by other people, things I could never make or do. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
Will and Mary Anne teach readers the meaning of life and time, they comfort us in the saddest moments, and amaze us with the growth in this relationship, and how a simple question can give us the spark we need.
I can admit, that as they spoke out about their hopes, their dreams, worries and fears with each other I became very emotional. When I say emotional, I mean full waterworks. I related to their story as an avid reader, and as a daughter, the book led me to think about the day that will come when my mom isn’t by my side anymore.
‘What are you reading?’ starts the beginning of a long journey between mother and son, and ends with loss, but also a sense of joy, because the relationship between Will and Mary Anne grew stronger despite the limited amount of days they had and it celebrated their passions for reading and self-discovery with some humor mixed in. .
I highly recommend giving this book a chance, because it’s not your typical book club, and I believe it will leave its mark on others, as it did on me.
“Reading isn’t the opposite of doing, it’s the opposite of dying.”