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4.2 out of 5 stars130
4.2 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As someone who has loved reading books all her life I knew I might fall in love with this book because it concerns two people who also love books. What I didn't know was just how much I would enjoy this book, nor how much content there is in it, I will HAVE to reread this book, possible a few times to absorb all that it is.

Will Schwalbe has written this wonderful book as a tribute to his mother Mary Ann Schwalbe and it works on so many levels.
We find out about his mother, Mary Ann Schwalbe who was a truly amazing woman. A genuinely compassionate person who cared deeply for many causes, especially for refugees and wanted nothing so much as to raise money and get a library built for the women of Afganistan.
Mary Ann had been there and to other third world countries , and seen how things are for herself, so she was able to recognise just how much so many people who are refugees around the world desperately want books to read. She also cared deeply for women's rights and in Afganistan these two issues come together.

Will and Mary Ann are spending a lot of time together at Hospital appointments as Mary Ann has stage 4 pancreatic cancer. They talk a lot about what they are reading, discussing the books and suggesting new ones to each other. They decided that this is their own Book Club.

They discuss books they are reading and share insights. Not always agreeing on what they think. There is a list at the end of all the books they mention. The range is quite wide too, as well as classics and literary novels are some non-fiction and also popular fiction.

Throughout the book are many details and insights of Mary Ann's life and her outlook "always do your best" and don't think doing a little means it's not worth it, because it is, worth it! I completely agree with her outlook.

Great book, totally recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 22 August 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If anyone needed proof that reading is more than just devouring words on a page then please do point them towards this book.

Mary Anne Schwalbe, a lively sixty-something woman who has spent her working life in interesting jobs; been involved with international philanthropic causes, travelled widely; has a wide circle of friends; is a wife, proud mother of three and a doting grandmother and her great love in life is reading books. When diagnosed with pancreatic cancer she chooses to spend the hours required to received various treatments in the clinic with members of her family and a close friend or two.

Her son Will is one of most frequent companions to these dreaded appointments. Their shared love of reading sustains the conversation, time is spend discussing the works they have read. Indeed, they begin their very own 'book group', just mother and son swapping recommendations and analysing what has been read, but, quite naturally, given the circumstances they find themselves in, the conversation goes way beyond what was on the printed page.

Despite the title and subject matter, this book is anything but mawkish, indeed I think the rather overused term of 'life enhancing' can certainly be applied here. Giving your children the love of literature is such an important gift and if you are able to share that gift then you will be truly blessed.

The reason I gave this book four rather than five stars is that it really does need a thorough editing - particularly for the British/European market. Products mentioned within the text are largly unknown here and some of the American language is just a little jarring on the British ear.
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VINE VOICEon 4 September 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Initially I wasn't that taken with Will Schwalbe's The End of Your Life Book Club. I think mainly because I didn't know of Mary Anne and the book revolves around her pancreatic cancer diagnosis and treatment. Having lost a few family members to cancer myself, it was hard bringing up those memories of what they and we went through knowing the pain it can cause. I also felt the start of the book was a bit rushed and didn't contain much feeling - just trying to catch the reader up while the middle/end was completely different. Although you know what's going to happen (an interesting parallel with Mary Anne always reading the end of books to find out what happens) I still found myself not really wanting to read on as I knew what was coming.

By the middle of the book I was hooked. Mary Anne was an incredible woman so I was glad to have found out who she was and the work that she did with refugees - cancer really didn't stop her doing what she wanted to do. I do love to read but have to admit I'd only read a few of the books that Will and his mother discuss in their Book Club but I was quite surprised that although books were a big feature of the book it didn't matter if you hadn't read them (I did get a few good recommendations from it though!). It was lovely having that insight into the club that only Will and his mother shared. You really understood how cancer and its various treatments can affect someone and there were some great lessons to take away from it.

Definitely a book to stick with.
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on 24 August 2013
Will Schwalbe has managed to write a book that not only commemorates his late mothers life, but celebrates it as well. Following her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, they start an informal book club together, hence the title. Throughout the book they read and discuss a large number of books as her treatments take place and her health deteriorates over a couple of years.

Mary Ann Schwalbe comes across as a remarkable woman; she spent time in Afghanistan and Thailand working with refugees and vulnerable people who society had abandoned and sought to bring them small simple pleasures. Not only does she has a big, generous heart, she has insight, sharp political nous and compassion. Whilst the ending is ultimately known, and expected, the way that she grabs hold of life is inspiring. Through the book the pancreatic cancer advances and retreats and she accepts the necessary pain and steady deterioration in health with humility and decorum. She also realises her privileged position, and seeks a political solution to the lack of heath care to these at the very bottom of the American health care system.

Schwalbe wears his emotions on his sleeve. And that is understandable, it is his mother after all. The books that they read together act as a comfort blanket at times; sometimes as a prism revealing their anxieties and fears, and sometimes as a mirror that shows things as they are. The book is punctuated with passages and quotes that has significance at that time. What Mary Ann Schwalbe leaves is a legacy of an immensely strong family unit and she shows an ability to look beyond where you are. The books that her and Will read add punctuation and relief to the end of her life.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Will Schwalbe has written a book about the period when his mother was dying of pancreatic cancer. Will's mother Mary was a remarkable woman having a great concern for Afghanistan and even in her last days working hard to establish travelling libraries to go round the villages encouraging reading habits. As lifelong readers Will and his mother spent much of their time together discussing books and The End of Your Life Book Club describes both the books themselves and also the progress of MAry's disease and the various treatments and procedures she has to go through (I thought these were a little too detailed at times).

I enjoy reading "books about books" and am always on the look-out for book recommendations from people I respect. Some of the books recommended here are titles I had never heard of before such as

Karen Connelly - The Lizard Cage
Russell Banks - Continental Drift
Patricia Highsmith - The Price of Salt.

Other are more familiar including Lewis Carroll, Alexander McCall Smith and Somerset Maugham.

This is an unusual book which I would only recommend to book lovers. The "cancer diary" aspect of it is not really the sort of thing I like but no doubt will interest some people.
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on 2 October 2012
"The End of Your Life Book Club" is a moving memoir and tribute by Will Schwalbe to his amazing mother Mary Anne Schwalbe. It's also a love story.
Mary Anne, an educator, philanthropist, wife and mother of three children and five grandchildren was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in 2007. While sitting in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and sometimes at the hospital Will and Mary Anne shared their hopes and concerns and rediscovered what is important in life while discussing their favorite books over the next two years.
Will says he learned when you're with a loved one who is dying, you may need to celebrate the past, live in the present and mourn the future all at the same time.
Mary Anne's passion, compassion and accomplishments could fill a book. Will says she was always introducing, scheduling, weighing in, guiding, advertising and raising money for the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children (she was the founding director), the International Rescue Committee and other organizations including her church. Also for the many refugees she met in her travels around the world and with whom she kept in touch. One of the organizations she was busiest with was a foundation to help establish libraries in Afghanistan. She fell in love with the people in 1995 and returned nine times, always for the International Rescue Committee. When she returned to America she'd advocate for policies to help the women and children. Her trips on behalf of the refugees took her to some of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan and around the world, including Southeast Asia and West Africa. She was given an honorary doctorate of laws by Marymount Manhattan College alongside Elaine Pagels a religious historian and Theresa Lang a philanthropist. At the commencement ceremony Mary Anne was introduced by a refugee she had helped attend Marymount. During her acceptance speech Mary Anne told the audience about a Bosnian family who insisted on walking ahead of her through the field of land mines to get to their polling station.
Will said his mother taught him that you can make a difference in the world and that books really do matter. He learned from her not to look away from the worst, but to believe we can all do better. She said, "Do you best, and that's all you can do."
Two years after Mary Anne's death Will learned that the U.S. Government had committed three million dollars to build a library in Kabul, Afghanistan. The library is now finished. Will says he'd like to believe his mother knows that.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 January 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is of course a loving tribute by a son to his mother, clearly a rather remarkable woman who lived well, and used her gifts and her privileges well, making a difference.

It is also a loving tribute to the difference that books, written after all, by people, make to our lives. A book can be as much the opener of new horizons, and a teacher by example as can the real people we meet who influence and change our lives. Fictional characters may teach us as much about the depth and complexity of being human as the words and actions of real people do. In fact 'real people' also take fictional characters as aspirational role models, for good or ill.

This is a book with few surprises but many recognitions. We know where the book is heading, and the more we learn about Mary Ann Schwalbe and Will Schwalbe, the more it seems as if the journey the book is making is just towards the home of something being what it is, and what might matter - kindness, relationship, art, compassion, empathy, connection, imagination, integrity.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The End of Your life Book Club The End of Your Life Book Club by Schwalbe, Will Published by Two Roads (2012) had me captured from the first page.

Will Schwalbe's mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer and whilst undergoing chemo treatment. So you know that before you begin reading, it is not going to be a "happily ever after ending".

I must confess that I had only read one or two of the books that they had discussed. But it really doesn't matter. It's the way they talk of books in the past and books they agree to read that makes this so readable.

Obviously it's a welcome distraction for both son and mother whilst treatment is taken.

It's a lovely memoir to his mother, Mary Ann: humanitarian; fund-raiser; a really good person.

I thought he End of Your Life Book Club was going to be a really sad story. However, the book showed the lasting impact one woman can have upon all her family.

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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 9 November 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The book club of this memoir's title was one consisting of only two members, Will Schwalbe and his mother Mary Ann, and it met during the chemotherapy sessions for her terminal cancer. The first book Will and Mary Ann read is Wallace Stegner's "Crossing to Safety", Will writes: 'That weekend I started it, and then at about page twenty or so, the magical thing occurred that happens only with the very best books: I became absorbed and obsessed and entered the "Can't you see I'm reading?" mode.' This describes perfectly the effect "The End of Your Life Book Club" had on me: I picked it up and by the end of the day had finished it, having been engrossed and stimulated throughout.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves books and the question 'What are you reading?'. All the books Will and his mother discuss are listed in an appendix which I will certainly consult in the future. As well as a paean to reading, "The End of Your Life Book Club" is also a vivid portrait of Mary Ann and her crusading life. I was worried, before reading, that this would turn out to be a mawkish or overly sentimental book, but instead it is a clear-eyed, often funny, memorial to a wonderful woman.
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on 1 March 2014
I enjoyed this book about a son's relationship with his mother in th last couple of year's of her life as she fights cancer. It is not mawkish or sentimental, but shows great strength, especially on the part of the mother - who was quite an extraordinary person and who achieved a lot in her life - her family and how they all cope. It also gives a brilliant list of some of the best reads in the world, so if you love books and love to read, this is a book for you. Having said all that, it isn't the most cheerful book either, but about life as people are sometimes forced to live it.
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