Thursday, November 14, 2013

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

I have been in a book club for a few years now and I love it.  I am also kind of proud of the fact that I have never not finished a book for book club.  Even when the book is horrible or life gets crazy, even if that is the only book I read all month, I always finish the book club book.  This month I almost didn't make it and not because I almost ran out of time.  I almost didn't finish because I almost couldn't resist the temptation to quit and toss the book back into the nearest library bin.  Who picked this one anyway?  Oh, was me.
The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe was on many, many lists recently of great book club reads.  Usually when it is my turn to pick the book club book, I have a whole list of books that I cannot wait to read with my book club ladies.  For whatever reason this month I just couldn't find any thing that really captured my attention that I thought everyone would enjoy.  You see, our book club is going through a few growing pains as three of our seven members have moved out of state and one more has her house for sale as we speak (me again).  It is really hard to have a book club meeting from a distance even with all the wonderful technological advances at our disposal.  I wanted something everyone would want to read so I went out trolling the interwebs, looking at book recommendation lists.  I came up with this one.
True, it is about the author's mother who is dying of pancreatic cancer, but she is in her seventies so I hoped that would help make it less sad.  It is also about the book club that developed between this admirable woman and her son.  They discuss books as they wait at each of her doctor appointments and chemo treatments.  This book is also interesting in that it does a thorough job of describing a cancer patient's struggles and what his or her loved ones can expect in such a situation.  It provided a good amount of advice to those grieving someone not yet gone.  I believed all the reviews I read about how wonderful this book is and so I made it my pick.  I started early because it was a slightly larger book than some of our recent books and it's a good thing I did.  It was just such a slow read.
The author loves his mother very much and she is a remarkable woman who has spent much of her life working on various charitable organizations to benefit refugees.  Where I stumbled is in the amount of details provided by the author.  I understand that partially he is writing this book for himself and his mother's family and friends to remember her, but sometimes it is just too much.  Also, while the books they pick to read are certainly high quality literature, I don't think there was even one that I have read.  Because of this, I had a difficult time connecting to the stories.
I was about halfway through the book when I realized that not only may I not finish the book, but it was unlikely that all of the other members of our book club would read it to the end.  I was ready to quit at that point.  Why force myself to finish a book I wasn't enjoying when there are so many other books out there that I can't wait to read?  Well, because that is what we do in book club.  After talking to one friend who was really enjoying the book, I knew I needed to push through.  Luckily for me, it picked up speed a bit in the second half.  I can't say I would recommend this book, but it does have value if you can make it through it.  One statement that really got me was this one:
"...This was not even a particularly big offense in the pantheon of book club crimes, where the worst sin one can commit was not to read the book in question- or, even worse, to lie about having read the book when, in fact, you'd simply seen the movie."

And so I finished.  And that's all I have to say about that.

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