Will Schwalbe grew up in a family of avid readers. “That’s why when my mother got a terminal diagnosis and we knew she had little time left, our conversation naturally turned to books.” In The End of Your Life Book Club, Will writes about his mother Mary Anne’s last months – she had inoperable pancreatic cancer – through the lens of their shared reading experience.
Will, who spent two decades in publishing and was then editor-in-chief of Hyperion Books, began trading books with his mother, books they’d talk about when he took her to her chemotherapy sessions.
Mary Anne, a feisty humanitarian, was also “a voracious and whimsical reader.” In their book club of two, they read everything from Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to classic novels including John O’Hara’s Appointment in Samara and Somerset Maugham’s The Painted Veil. Many books reflect Mary Anne’s interest in developing countries: Canadian author Karen Connelly’s The Lizard Cage, which takes place in Burma, was one of her favourites.
A New York Times bestseller since it was released last fall, The End of Your Life Book Club encompasses caregiving, mourning, love – and the joys of reading. “A touching portrait,” The New Yorker wrote, “full of warmth, love, and much-needed humour,”
“Completely engaging and difficult to put down,” declared The Independent. “Hearing Schwalbe recount the effects that one selfless and loving person can have on the world is sad without being depressing, and deeply inspirational on a personal level to every imaginable reader.”
Ultimately this is the story of how a man and his mother connected during her final illness. Fittingly, The End of Your Life Book Club won “Best Inspirational Memoir” at the Books for a Better Life Awards, and was also a finalist for “Book of the Year – Adult Nonfiction” in the 2013 Indies Choice Book Awards.
Will – who left his job at Hyperion to help tend to his mother and is now CEO and founder of Cookstr.com – says his experiences with The End of Your Life Book Club prove that “turning to literature, turning to books, can help you immensely when you need it most.”
Will Schwalbe lives in New York City.
Photo Credit: Michael Lionstar