Books: The End of Your Life Book Club

Sometimes, by the time the library notifies me that a book I had put a hold on is available, I have forgotten requesting it. But when I see that it’s in, I remember requesting it and why. Until this time. When I got the email that The End of Your Life Book Club was available for pickup, I didn’t even recognize the title of the book. Even now, after reading the entire book, I still don’t remember where I heard about it or what prompted me to decide to read it.

Books about books can be very interesting. The idea of a “book club” with two members, a woman dying of pancreatic cancer and her son who discusses books with her during her chemo treatments, was intriguing. I would love to have someone to discuss all the books I read with – though I would hardly wish for chemo treatments to provide the opportunity.

I had thought I would get some ideas for more books to read from their book list. And I did find a few. The library just notified me that The Uncommon Reader is waiting for me to pick up – and I remember requesting it because of it being mentioned in this book. I had already decided to read something else by Herman Wouk. I was reminded that I wanted to read Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. And I decided to read The Kite Runner, which I had heard about but wasn’t sure I wanted to read.

But I found that most of the titles mentioned did not make me want to read them. The discussion of most of the books was sketchy at best. I learn that Will and Mary Anne think a number of books are wonderful. But I get little sense of why they are wonderful. Sometimes a favorite passage is quoted, but I don’t find myself drawn to it the way she was, so I question whether I would share their high opinion of the rest of the book.

Mostly, the book discussions seem to be a way for Will to spend time with his mother and reminisce about his childhood and about all the wonderful humanitarian work his mother has done. She sounds like a remarkable woman – but not someone I can relate to personally. She loves meeting new people, and she loves organizing things. She also has very different political views from mine. (And a reader review at amazon.com suggests that the books she reads reflect her political views.)

The story of her life – and death – is interesting, though I wouldn’t have chosen to read the book for that aspect of it. There is some good information about relating to people living with (and generally dying from) cancer. But the farther I read in the book, the more it read as a tribute to his mother than anything else. And an exhortation to support the causes she supported.

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