The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe – Book Review

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
Published by Knopf, an imprint of Random Houseox

For as long as he can remember, Will Schwalbe’s mother has been almost a super-human figure. She was Harvard’s first female director of admissions, then later the founding director of International Rescue Committee’s Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children. Nothing could slow Mary Anne Schwalbe down, except stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Even cancer didn’t slow Will’s mother down as much as it would most people. Still, though, there were those periods of enforced rest, the doctor appointments, the chemotherapy treatments. Will is lucky enough to have the flexibility and proximity to attend many of his mother’s appointments with her. When they are together, the conversation frequently defaults to the same thing it has throughout their lives: books.

The End of Your Life Book Club is as much – or more – about Mary Anne’s life with and death from cancer than about the books that the two read together. It is a chronicle of the last months of her life, a testament to her strength, and Will’s coming to terms with the way his family’s life will be forever changed.

This is an emotional book, and yet I personally failed to connect to it emotionally. I believe that this has more to do with the circumstances – I started it immediately on the heels of another extremely emotional book which also dealt with hospitals and death and I believe I was just wrung out.  Honestly, I also thought that the books themselves would be a bigger and more integrated part of Schwalbe’s story.

Although each chapter is given the title of the book they read at that point in time, the books themselves are discussed to varying degrees and do not always seem particularly important to what they are going through. I do appreciate that Schwalbe is trying to be faithful to what actually happened and it would be disingenuous at best to make individual books seem more important to this process than they were. I suppose the difference is that I was expecting more about how the specific books helped the Schwalbe family cope and The End of Your Life Book Club is more about how the process of reading brought comfort to Will and Mary Anne during Mary Anne’s illness.

People who have dealt with the terminal illness of a loved one will likely find much to connect with in The End of Your Life Book Club, even though I personally did not.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe – BOOK CLUB Giveaway

We’re changing up BOOK CLUB a bit. Gone are the rigid dates, where we announce books on the X Tuesday of the month, discuss them on the Y Tuesday, alternating whose blog the discussion happens on. Instead, Nicole and I will be co-hosting BOOK CLUBs as we find books that we are just dying to discuss with everyone. The first such book in our semi-new format is going to be Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Club from A.A. Knopf. Here is, in part, the publisher’s description:

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.

Part of the new book club will include reaching out to more readers. We are now giving away books with the understanding with publishers that there will be a readerly discussion. If you are a blogger and review the book, great! If you are not a blogger, but review the book on LibraryThing or GoodReads, or talk it up on Twitter, wonderful! All we really want, though, is for you to commit to come and discuss it with us.

We will be discussing The End of Your Life Book Club on Tuesday, November 13th. If you would like to be entered to win one of our ten copies (US mailing addresses only, please), please fill out the form below by 11:59 am Eastern on Thursday, October 18th. Your address WILL be required to win (but will not be used by us for anything but getting your book to you) because we want to get these books to you with quick turn around.

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BOOK CLUB – Dare Me by Megan Abbott

Welcome to BOOK CLUB, which I run with co-conspirator Nicole from Linus’s Blanket. Today we will be chatting about Dare Me by Megan Abbott  which was released July 31st by Reagan Arthur Books. For those of you reading this post, please remember that this discussion is likely to contain spoilers.

Here is the publisher’s synopsis

Addy Hanlon has always been Beth Cassidy’s best friend and trusted lieutenant. Beth calls the shots and Addy carries them out, a long-established order of things that has brought them to the pinnacle of their high-school careers. Now they’re seniors who rule the intensely competitive cheer squad, feared and followed by the other girls — until the young new coach arrives.

Cool and commanding, an emissary from the adult world just beyond their reach, Coach Colette French draws Addy and the other cheerleaders into her life. Only Beth, unsettled by the new regime, remains outside Coach’s golden circle, waging a subtle but vicious campaign to regain her position as “top girl” — both with the team and with Addy herself.

Then a suicide focuses a police investigation on Coach and her squad. After the first wave of shock and grief, Addy tries to uncover the truth behind the death — and learns that the boundary between loyalty and love can be dangerous terrain.

Before we get started, here are some of the reviews of readers who will be participating today:

Between the Covers
Devourer of Books
Home Cooked Books
Linus’s Blanket
Nomad Reader

If you plan on participating in today’s BOOK CLUB, please consider subscribing to comments at the bottom of the page (please use the TOP subscription option). I will be updating this post with new questions and ideas over the course of the day.

Here we go…

  • First off, what were your general impressions of the book?
  • Is this a book you would have read had you not been reading it for a book club?
  • What did you think of Coach and her relationship with the girls? Why do you think she acted the way she did?
  • What did you think about the dynamic between Beth and Addy? Did you expect the revelation at the end about their relationship?
  • Any other thoughts/questions?
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Dare Me by Megan Abbott – Book Review

Dare Me by Megan Abbott
Published by Reagan Arthur Books, an imprint of Hachette

Beth Cassidy was captain of the cheer squad, queen bee, and Addy Hanlon’s best friend. Everything changes for the girls when their old cheer coach leaves and a new, younger, more competitive woman takes over the position. When Coach Collette French removes Beth from her position as captain, the two are set at odds, even more so once Addy falls under the coach’s sway. All is not well in Coach French’s life, though. There is definitely something not right between the coach and her husband and before long Collette and Addy are drawn into an investigation of the alleged suicide of the coach’s lover. Now Addy needs to figure out whether the suicide is really what it seems, or whether she’s gotten into something she never expected to be a part of.

Abbott is gifted at creating realistic and life-like characters and situations. I spent much of Dare Me feeling disgust and fury at Coach French and the way she interacted with the girls. She had a completely inappropriate relationship with them, but given the circumstances it did not seem completely unrealistic. Once my annoyance with the coach subsided somewhat, I realized that for me to have been that bothered by Collette’s actions meant that Abbott created in Dare Me a world that I believed completely and had invested in to some extent.

While this is not my favorite of the three of Abbott’s books I have read – that distinction probably goes to the only one I haven’t reviewed, Bury Me Deep, she does continue to be very successful in engaging me in the worlds she creates, which means I have every intention of continuing to read her.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, for BOOK CLUB.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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September BOOK CLUB giveaway – Breed by Chase Novak

It is that time again! We are gearing up for next month’s discussion of Dare Me by Megan Abbott (Tuesday, August 7th right here), but it is also time to give away the next  BOOK CLUB selection. In September we will be reading an offering from Mulholland Books, Breed by Chase Novak.

We will be discussing Breed on Nicole’s blog on Tuesday, September 4th.

From the publisher:

Alex and Leslie Twisden lead charmed lives-fabulous jobs, a luxurious town house on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, a passionate marriage. What they don’t have is a child, and as they try one infertility treatment after the next, yearning turns into obsession. As a last-ditch attempt to make their dream of parenthood come true, Alex and Leslie travel deep into Slovenia, where they submit to a painful and terrifying procedure that finally gives them what they so fervently desire . . . but with awful consequences.

Ten years later, cosseted and adored but living in a house of secrets, the twins Adam and Alice find themselves locked into their rooms every night, with sounds coming from their parents’ bedroom getting progressively louder, more violent, and more disturbing.

Driven to a desperate search for answers, Adam and Alice set out on a quest to learn the true nature of the man and woman who raised them. Their discovery will upend everything they thought they knew about their parents and will reveal a threat so horrible that it must be escaped, at any cost

If you would like to be considered as a participant for August, please fill out the form below by noon, Eastern on Tuesday, June 26th. Your mailing address will be discarded if you aren’t selected to participate and used to mail you the book if you are. I do not share or retain any personal information. Only those selected will be contacted by email.

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