The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe is not a story of plot twists and surprises. From the beginning, the author makes it very clear that in the end, his mother will die. This is fitting, given that Schwalbe’s mother is the type of person who reads the end of a book first, and, had she ever had the chance to read her son’s book about her, he would have spared her the trouble. But for those who read books in the traditional manner, this practice lends a semblance of calm to an otherwise tragic story. There is no need to rush through this book to find out what happens, and no incentive to skim pages or to ignore a thought provoked by a passage. In fact, any distraction, internal pondering, or extra time spent in analysis along the way prolongs the reader’s experience and delays the dreaded inevitable.
On the surface, The End of Your Life Book Club is about a woman fighting cancer and bonding with her son over books. This book is perfect for anyone who enjoys reading as it will undoubtedly lead on to reading some of the other books recommended (and occasionally spoiled) therein. It is fascinating to hear the commentary of two such intellectual and avid readers, even if the reader disagrees with their insights (why on earth shouldn’t a person love both C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien?). This setup acts as a lens through which the reader learns about the amazing life of Mary Anne Schwalbe. Through his depiction of her battle with pancreatic cancer and through his stories of her many life accomplishments, Will Schwalbe shows his mother to the world. He attests to both her public and private selves in such a way as to convince the reader that she was a paragon of humanity. In spite of the absence of suspense, this book is completely engaging and difficult to put down. 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.