Thursday, August 29, 2013

The End of Your Life Bookclub

I was strolling along in the Target Book Aisle and saw this book that I had heard a lot about so I picked it up, read several pages and decided it needed to come home with me.  This true story is a book about reading, it reminds us that reading can help us get through tough times by giving us a bit of an escape. It is also about dying. Dying is a topic that people avoid. I can remember reading On Death and Dying in nursing was supposed to help us learn how to deal with terminal patients. It was an eye opener but I cannot say it helped me as a nurse. It is just HARD to know what to say to someone who is dying. As a young nurse, I had a patient who was being treated for leukemia. She was a wife and mother, had many concerns and wanted to talk about her future. I can remember brushing her off...not wanting to talk about death. I still feel badly about that encounter to this day.  So this book, that confronts dying by Living while Dying, was a good read for me.

Mary Anne Schwalbe was a world traveler, busy in many social concerns in Afghanistan and Burma so when she came home tired and jaundiced her doctor began treating her for hepatitis. But she did not get better. After more testing the physicians find out it is not Hepatitis but rather pancreatic cancer. Advanced pancreatic cancer. Even with treatment, her prognosis was six months to a year.  Her son, Will, a book editor, takes the time to go with her to her treatments at Sloane Kettering. Being voracious readers, they each have a book with them to pass the time. Soon they decide that they will have a book club of two and they read the same books and discuss them. (There is a list of the books they read included.) Will comes to know his mother as a reader and they find that while they enjoy many of the books, their opinions on the characters, plot etc are often quite different. Mary Anne keeps busy with her life and friends as she is going through treatment and I think that really made the difference in her survival of two years after her diagnosis.  Mary Anne is also a believer...she trusts in God as she is on this journey.  I am looking for one of the devotional books that she kept on her bedside table, Daily Strength for Daily Needs.

This book also helps the reader to understand what cancer patients are going through as they are treated with chemo. Will includes some helpful advice on how to help the patient and the family when they are in this situation.  Ultimately, Mary Anne does die but she dies peacefully at home which is a blessing.
I must tell you that this book also includes a lot about liberal ideas and philosophies...I would just skim over these parts and move on to the rest of the story.  It is a book that I will keep in my own library and I will re read it I am sure. I will also be reading some of the books that Will and Mary Anne read in their End of Your Life Book Club.


Anonymous said...

I've not heard of that book, Arlene. Another sad book. I suppose there is balance - I think I like your happier books better.

Arlene Grimm said...

Gina, while this book was rather sad it was also encouraging as Mary Anne faced death as a fully until her death.