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The End of Your Life Book Club

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The End of Your Life Book Club

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"What are you reading?" That's the question Will Schwalbe asks his mother, Mary Anne, as they sit in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2007, Mary Anne returned from a...
"What are you reading?" That's the question Will Schwalbe asks his mother, Mary Anne, as they sit in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2007, Mary Anne returned from a...
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  • Available:
    4
  • Library copies:
    4
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    6.8
  • Lexile:
  • Interest Level:
    UG
  • Reading Level:
    5

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Description-
  • "What are you reading?"

    That's the question Will Schwalbe asks his mother, Mary Anne, as they sit in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2007, Mary Anne returned from a humanitarian trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan suffering from what her doctors believed was a rare type of hepatitis. Months later she was diagnosed with a form of advanced pancreatic cancer, which is almost always fatal, often in six months or less.

    This is the inspiring true story of a son and his mother, who start a "book club" that brings them together as her life comes to a close. Over the next two years, Will and Mary Anne carry on conversations that are both wide-ranging and deeply personal, prompted by an eclectic array of books and a shared passion for reading. Their list jumps from classic to popular, from poetry to mysteries, from fantastic to spiritual. The issues they discuss include questions of faith and courage as well as everyday topics such as expressing gratitude and learning to listen. Throughout, they are constantly reminded of the power of books to comfort us, astonish us, teach us, and tell us what we need to do with our lives and in the world. Reading isn't the opposite of doing; it's the opposite of dying.

    Will and Mary Anne share their hopes and concerns with each other--and rediscover their lives--through their favorite books. When they read, they aren't a sick person and a well person, but a mother and a son taking a journey together. The result is a profoundly moving tale of loss that is also a joyful, and often humorous, celebration of life: Will's love letter to his mother, and theirs to the printed page.

Excerpts-
  • From the book

    Crossing to SafetyWe were nuts about the mocha in the waiting room at Memorial Sloan-­Kettering's outpatient care center. The coffee isn't so good, and the hot chocolate is worse. But if, as Mom and I discovered, you push the "mocha" button, you see how two not-­very-­good things can come together to make something quite delicious. The graham crackers aren't bad either.

    The outpatient care center is housed on the very pleasant fourth floor of a handsome black steel and glass office building in Manhattan on the corner of 53rd Street and Third Avenue. Its visitors are fortunate that it's so pleasant, because they spend many hours there. This is where people with cancer wait to see their doctors and to be hooked up to a drip for doses of the life-­prolonging poison that is one of the wonders of the modern medical world. By the late autumn of 2007, my mother and I began meeting there regularly.

    Our book club got its formal start with the mocha and one of the most casual questions two people can ask each other: "What are you reading?" It's something of a quaint question these days. More often in lulls of conversation people ask, "What movies have you seen?" or "Where are you going on vacation?" You can no longer assume, the way you could when I was growing up, that anyone is reading anything. But it's a question my mother and I asked each other for as long as I can remember. So one November day, while passing the time between when they took Mom's blood and when she saw the doctor (which preceded the chemo), I threw out that question. Mom answered that she was reading an extraordinary book, Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner.

    Crossing to Safety, which was first published in 1987, is one of those books I'd always so intended to read that I spent years pretending not only that I'd actually read it but also that I knew more about its author than that he'd been born in the early years of the twentieth century and wrote mostly about the American West. I worked in book publishing for twenty-­one years and, in various conversation lulls, got into the habit of asking people, especially booksellers, the name of their favorite book and why they loved it so much. One of the most frequently named books was and is always Crossing to Safety.

    Raving about books I hadn't read yet was part of my job. But there's a difference between casually fibbing to a bookseller and lying to your seventy-­three-­year-­old mother when you are accompanying her for treatments to slow the growth of a cancer that had already spread from her pancreas to her liver by the time it was diagnosed.

    I confessed that I had not, in fact, read this book.

    "I'll give you my copy when I'm finished," said my mother, who was always much thriftier than I am.

    "That's okay, I have a copy," I told her, which was, in fact, true. There are certain books that I mean to read and keep stacked by my bedside. I even take them on trips. Some of my books should be awarded their own frequent-­flier miles, they've traveled so much. I take these volumes on flight after flight with the best of intentions and then wind up reading anything and everything else (SkyMall! Golf Digest!). I'd brought Crossing to Safety on so many trips and returned it to my bedside unread so many times that it could have earned at least one first-­class ticket to Tokyo on Japan Airlines.

    But this time it would be different. 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...

About the Author-
  • Will Schwalbe has worked in publishing (most recently as senior vice president and editor in chief of Hyperion Books); digital media, as the founder and CEO of Cookstr.com; and as a journalist, writing for various publications including The New York Times and the South China Morning Post. He is on the boards of Yale University Press and the Kingsborough Community College Foundation. He is the coauthor, with David Shipley, of Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better.

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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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  • Copyright Protection (DRM) required by the Publisher may be applied to this title to limit or prohibit printing or copying. File sharing or redistribution is prohibited. Your rights to access this material expire at the end of the lending period. Please see Important Notice about Copyrighted Materials for terms applicable to this content.

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