The End of Your Life Book Club – by Will Schwalbe
This is a biographical/autobiographical account of Will Schwalbe’s last years with his mother, Mary Anne Schwalbe, after she was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. On the back of the ARC I found at work, it simply reads: A mother and a son. A life-long love of books. This was all I needed. Here’s what meeting Mary Anne and Will was like for me:
There’s no easy way to reconcile yourself to the fact that someone you love is going to die; and not in some vague, we’re-all-going-to-die-someday sense, but in the form of a terminal diagnosis. Will wasn’t ready to let his mother go – and neither was Mary Anne ready to leave. There was still so much to do. Over the course of her treatment and final years, Mary Anne and Will would meet for her chemo appointments and discuss whichever book they had both been reading, in an exclusive, two person book club. Their discussions were about the books, but also about their lives, their bond, and their grief.
Mary Anne Schwalbe is a remarkable woman. She spent her life trying to make a difference to people who had no one else willing to fight for them. One of her most impressive achievements, among many, was helping to found the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, a division of the International Rescue Committee, the IRC. Underpinning all this was her incredibly generous personality. Will Schwalbe paints a vivid picture of a woman who will always take the time to ask how a stranger’s day is going, will always offer a smile and a greeting on the street, and who never failed to open her heart, and often her home, to people who needed a second chance.
Schwalbe’s book is a loving homage to this amazing woman, and his relationship with her. I was touched and inspired by her story, and by their story. With integrity and emotional resonance, the memoir speaks to anyone who has lost someone they love, particularly those who had the mixed blessing of knowing the end was fast approaching. I am so glad to have been introduced to the Schwalbes.
Read more about Mary Anne Schwalbe here: