Book Review: 'The End of Your Life Book Club' by Will Schwalbe

A story about a long goodbye as featured in the October 2012 issue

by Dani Shapiro
the end of your life book club image
Photograph: Amazon.com

Mary Anne and Will Schwalbe shared an enviably close mother-son relationship that became that much closer after Mary Anne was diagnosed, at 73, with inoperable pancreatic cancer. A remarkable woman (she had been director of admissions at Harvard and Radcliffe, head of a private school in Manhattan and an effective activist as well as a wife and mother), Mary Anne was ­determined, in the limited time she had left, to live as she always had: savoring and making the best use of every moment, remembering that life is a privilege and responsibility. As Will accompanied her to chemo and doctors’ appointments, mother and son read together—everything from Wallace Stegner to Herman Wouk to Ishmael Beah—forming a book club of two. The meditations that grew out of their reading are the basis of The End of Your Life Book Club (Knopf), a gentle, searingly moving memoir, at once a love letter and a generous, incisive set of instructions not about how to die but about how to live.

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Next: Book Review: 'All Gone' by Alex Witchel

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First published in the October 2012 issue.

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