The End of Your Life Book Club


With my blog I am endeavouring to be disciplined enough to write one post a week.  Although discipline is not my middle name or even a word that finds itself in the Natty Top 100 word list.  So a couple of hours ago I sat in front of the computer and thunk and thunk about what I could write.  This was what I came up with

  • What an utter utter bastard Jimmy Saville was – I didn’t even know who he was a couple of weeks ago
  • How the last week has been a confirmation of the struggles women face every day in the world, whether you are a school girl in Pakistan, the Prime Minister of Australia, a woman deciding to speak out about the sexual abuse you suffered at the BBC 30 years ago, or deciding you need an abortion in the US
  • The trials of being the mother of the least responsive puppy at puppy training

But these topics were not really lighting my creative fire.  So I did what I always did when a challenge presents itself – no not drinking, sleeping or tormenting Brett.  I read a book.

And what a wonderful book it is.  I bought it this morning to share at book club.  The only draw back I find with my e-reader is that I sometimes don’t get around to acquiring a “real” book for book club.  And despite some of the evidence to the contrary.  We do read at our book club (as well as solve all of the problems of the world, share child and man minding tips, appreciate fine wine, cheese and home baking)

Anyhoo, I went to the wonderful Arcadia Bookshop in Newmarket http://www.arcadiabookshop.co.nz/  Somehow Doris the owner manages has to have a great range of books at reasonable prices.  And I overheard Doris reviewing The End of Your Life Book Club to one of her customers.  It was a book that Doris described as impossible to put down.  I decided she was up for the challenge.  And I must say Doris was nearly right.  I did have to put the book down for my afternoon sleep, sitting at the keyboard to thunk about the blog and making my afternoon gin.  But apart from that I read and I read, and laughed and cried and cried – even without the assistance of the gin.

This book is the true story of Mary Anne Schwalbe and her son Will’s relationship through books and reading over the last two years of her life while she has pancreatic cancer.  A remarkable woman, whose life had been committed to her family, women’s and refugee rights, a committed Christian and an avid reader.  It is the story of the power of the written word, the relationship of a Mother and Son, and sometimes how it is easier to talk about the hard stuff when talking about how someone else experienced and wrote it.

Many books I have read were mentioned in this book as well as many I have not.  But it was a wonderful way for Will and his Mother to connect, to read new books as well as old favourites.  To open their minds to new worlds and thinking, when at times the cancer world became all encompassing.  I liked how it gave an insight into the struggles a family goes through when a member of their family has cancer.  It also gave some tips I think may be bit helpful.  A bit like Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking.

What comes through most powerfully for me was that Mary Anne chose to live her life right up to the last being kind to people.  We can’t all go and live in war zones and refugee camps.  But how hard is it really to be kind? I can be on a good day, but sometimes I am not – in fact I am the opposite.  I don’t even mean spending month’s helping our in refugee camps, or paying for someone’s medication.  Mary Anne does does. But maybe just taking a moment to be present and being kind.

Anyway I think this book along with The Pilgrimage of Howard Fry are my books of the year.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/opinion/sunday/reading-together-knowing-the-ending.html?_r=0

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