Interesting on many fronts. The mother's life is inspiring. The relationship between mother and son develops in intensity. The progress of the cancer and its treatment gives insight into medical care - or lack of care for those without money - in America today.
Firstly, I urge you not to be put off reading this book by any preconceptions about the subject matter. There are certainly many moving moments throughout the book, but overall, it's a testament to the life of an extraordinary lady. Both her personal achievements and, perhaps more importantly, her philosophy of life. And this is very much a book about living. It's also a literary journey, with the illness of the author's mother providing a framework to explore so many incredible books.
The discussions about books don't include spoilers and very helpfully, there's an appendix which lists all titles discussed. This really is what I'd call a 'readers book'. There are so many literary references; a memory lane trip if you've already read the books and an exciting taster for titles unread. For many reasons, it's one of the most powerful and thought provoking books I've read. It describes heartbreak without being mawkish or over sentimental. It's an inspired and inspiring tribute to a selfless, unassuming individual and through her experiences, I've taken a number of very positive lessons about life. Will Schwalbe has every reason to be proud of this work and I feel certain his mother will look upon it with a smile.
I spotted this book in the window of a bookshop in one of the shopping centres in Geelong Victoria when I was in Australia last October and knew that as soon as I could I would purchase the book.
When I got home I was delighted to see that the Bookies Too book group had elected to read this book during the later half of December so I quickly ordered it and then sat down to read.
I suspected that I would love it and I was right! - Cancer is always a hard subject to read about, especially as many families including my own have been touched by it. Over the years when I worked in hospitals I would do ward rounds and hear that awful "rattle" and see the patients and their families. Truly shocking.
For me this book was about Will's relationship with his mother. and his final relationship with her. The conversations they had and the ones they did not have, the books they shared and simply being together, mother and son for a final time. Yes, the medical details are perhaps hard for some to bear because in the US I understand that there are funding issues and therefore some have a "financial stress free time" and others don't. Here in the UK all medication and treatment is free unless you choose to pay for private medical treatment, in which case it is expensive.
I think that this book is about how Will coped with his mother's passing, and perhaps for Will writing this book was a form of counselling and coming to terms. It also enabled Will to write about his mother, a mother he was immensely proud of.
Despite being such a sad book, alas there is no happy ending, it was a really lovely book. It is the story of reading, books and relationships.
There is also a web page and there is a Facebook page to accompany the book complete with a full list of the books and authors that Will and his mother discussed.
This is a lovely book about the author's mother and their time together during her last 18 months after a diagnosis of cancer of the pancreas. Will, the author is rightly proud of his mother: proud of her work, her willingness to help people and her strength to keep doing as much as she can during her illness. Their mutual love of books not only gave them something to talk about but it also brought them closer together and helped them to think and talk about the past, present and future, often in an indirect way. I hadn't read many of the books they mentioned, but it didn't seem to matter, I simply enjoyed their enthusiasm and was happy for them that they had this common interest to focus on during this difficult time.
I can't remember how I came across this book and it isn't the sort of reading I go for - being a head-in-the-sand kind of person. However, I found that I wanted to keep reading it and it was on my mind a lot. What an amazing woman Mary Anne Schwalbe was. It has also given me lots of other books to enjoy.