The End of Your Life Book Club is about Will (the author) and his mother that is battling stage IV cancer. Will's mother, 75 years old had breast cancer several years ago. It was what he called a small bout of cancer which they didn't even need to do chemotherapy or radiation; they just had surgery and it was gone. Several years later the cancer spread to his mother's pancreas and liver.
Once I read that I couldn't help but think of Karen as her cancer began in her breast, she had surgery (no chemo or radiation) and then it spread to Karen's spine and later to her liver that ultimately took her life. So, as I read this book I couldn't help but think of Karen and compare the two and really get an inside look at what Karen had to deal with and also see and have a better understanding of how a person must feel knowing their life is ending.
Will Schwalbe loved his mother dearly and wanted to connect with her someway while she was battling cancer, give them something to discuss other than her illness, and since both loved reading they chose to have a book club, just the two of them and share their thoughts and opinions with one another.
As I said, I couldn't help but compare the two woman, Karen and Will's mother, as they both battled stage IV cancer. So many similarities such as: neither one wanted to be stuck in the hospital. Also, when dealing with a terminal illness a person does not want to hear "you'll beat this" or hear about how they knew someone that did beat, etc... They just want to be validated that their illness is real and they know they will most likely die from it.
Some differences of the two would be Will's family is a very wealthy family from the east coast. Money was not an issue and they were a very privileged family in the way they got to get up and go, travel and see the world, quit a job just because they didn't like it anymore without having to worry about the consequences of unemployment. Plus, when dealing with breast cancer Will's mother, just "moved on", if you will. She "didn't walk in any breast cancer awareness walks or participate in the fund raises, but saw her bout with breast cancer as just a roadblock in her life." Will's mother's focus was solely on the refugee camps of Afghanistan and Pakistan and the library she had hoped to build to help the people of these countries.
Karen walked the walks with her family every year until she couldn't anymore. Her wardrobe consisted of Susan G. Komen "pink" and she even toyed with the idea of getting the breast cancer symbol, a pink ribbon on her wrist, however, she never got to get that tattoo.
Here are a few quotes from the book that I loved:
Still, one of the things I learned from Mom is this: Reading isn't the opposite of doing: it's the opposite of dying.
They reminded us that no matter where mom and I were on our individual journey's, we could still share books, we wouldn't be the sick person and the well person, we would simply be a mother and son entering new worlds together.
That's one of the amazing things great books like this do - they don't just get your to see the world differently, they get you to look at people, the people around you differently.
What I suddenly understood was that a thank-you note isn't the price you pay for receiving a gift, as so many children think it is, a kind of minimum tribute or toll, but an opportunity to count your blessings. And gratitude isn't what you give in exchange for something; it's what you feel when you are blessed - blessed to have family and friends who care about you, and who want to see you happy.
And lastly, the letter Will's mother left him hidden in a book they read together that he opened back up after she passed:
We all owe everyone for everything that happens in our lives. But it's not owing like a debt to one person - it's really that we owe everyone for everything. Our whole lives can change in an instant - so each person who keeps that from happening, no matter how small a role they play, is also responsible for all of it. Just by giving friendship and love, you keep the people around you from giving up - and each expression of friendship or love may be the one that makes the difference.