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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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By fred on 10-30-12
Loved this book
Loved this book. Of course the subject of illness is difficult but I loved how this family dealt with illness, treatments and end of life. Good review of so many books that you may have read or meant to read. One of my year's favorite books.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
By Krista on 10-25-12
Decent, but not earth-shattering
I really wanted to like this book, and I did in a lot of ways. If you approach it as just one guy's story about his mom and what his family was doing, thinking, and reading during his mom's battle with cancer (without any huge epiphanies or off-the-wall adventures or stunning realizations), you'll like it much better than if you're approaching it for sweeping insights. Don't get me wrong, I am saddened that families and friends ever have to watch someone they love battle this disease, and that wonderful people die everyday as we search for a cure, but this book just didn't expose any ringing truths or open my eyes to anything new, which I tend to need from a book to increase the stars in my ratings. My biggest issue? The complete perception of perfection that the author portrays of his mom, and of everyone around them. Could he not tell one story of their faults and foibles and fights? Even the one "mistake" we learn of his mom making during his childhood was so trivial that, while it made for a few minutes of easy reading, it didn't paint a picture of family life that I could relate to. My praise? It did make me want to read several of the books mentioned within. Books about books are like that.
26 of 29 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Kim Driver on 07-05-18
Great story telling so many messages
Loved it :) got me really thinking and made me want to be a better person :)
By A. Wyk on 05-31-16
Exceptional story told by a son who shared the love of books with his mother.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful