The End of Your Life Bookclub | Will Schwalbe

The premise of The End of Your Life Bookclub sounds like it could be quite depressing.

A man discussing books with his dying mum suggests that the end is not going to be a happy one and that there could be lots of talk about illness and cancer.

However, the first chapter is ‘Crossing to Safety’ …a book I had just finished reading and loved. It seemed too serendipitous – I kept on reading and prepared myself for sadness.

Will’s mother, Mary Anne, was an extraordinary woman. Motivated, dedicated, hard-working, generous, thoughtful, spiritual, honorable, determined and above all positive and loving to the very end of her life.

This is a book dedicated to extolling her virtues and keeping her memory alive.

Each chapter focuses on one book. Will shares their views and thoughts about it, the author and other related reads. Will highlights the joys of reading as well as the solace that reading can bring to all of us at different times in our lives.

Woven into each chapter is Mary Anne’s battle with pancreatic cancer. As the pages thin out, the inevitable end becomes impossible to ignore. As with every thing else about Mary Anne’s life, Will describes these final days with dignity and grace.

One book they read was ‘The Etiquette of Illness’ by Sue Halpern. Will included a checklist of do’s and dont’s:

1) Ask: ‘Do you want to talk about how you’re feeling?’ (instead of asking straight away and putting the individual on the spot about answering)
2) Don’t ask if there’s anything you can do. Suggest things, or if it’s not intrusive, just do them.
3) You don’t have to talk all the time. Sometimes just being there is enough.

More than anything though this is a story about love. The love and respect that a son has for his mother. And grief, as Will, after the death of his mother comes to term with his loss, by writing about her.

Will not only has this book as a memorial to his mother, he also has all the books and poems and authors he shared with his mother while she was alive. Every time he re-reads one of these books or reads a new book by a favourite author, his mother’s voice will be present for him.

Our loved ones will always live with us in our hearts thanks to the memories we create with them every day we’re together. Will and Mary Anne understood this and embraced it.

The End of Your Life Bookclub is an inspiring, tender read that will leave you with a desire to spend more quality time with your loved ones.

You will also find yourself poring over the appendix and adding new titles and authors to your TBR pile!

There are 138 books and poems mentioned throughout The End of Your Life Bookclub – I’ve read 28 of them. The full list can be found here at List Challenges.

5 thoughts on “The End of Your Life Bookclub | Will Schwalbe

  1. I listened to the author's interview recently on Radio National, he was great, and the book sounded really interesting. It's still available if you want to listen. I'd love to get to read the book.


  2. This books captures the special time between diagnosis with a probably terminal illness and death. Will be particularly meaningful for anyone who has found themselves in this situation but should be read by anyone. The engaging discussions, inside view of a remarkable woman and her family and long list of books shared mean my reading list is now full for quite some time. Maycee Greene (Olympia Search Engine Optimization)


  3. Pingback: Shelf Life #8

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