The author is a former book publisher whose mother is dying of pancreatic cancer. Through the many doctor's appointments, chemotherapy treatments and all the phases of her dying, they read and discuss books, forming a two person book club. I enjoyed reading their story on many accounts. The lists of books they read over the course of her final illness appears as an appendix which was a good thing, as my first impulse as I read was to jot down the titles of the books. Having removed that distraction, the author shares his deep love for his mother and their shared respect and passion for reading. He drew me in to their discussions of the books they read, their reflections on their meaning to each of them amidst her failing health.
His mother, Mary Anne Schwalbe, was an educated woman of many firsts, working and raising her three children at the same time. She was the founder of the Women's Refuge Commission, a charity dedicated to saving the lives of refugees around the world and travelled extensively in service to the cause.
Their relationship was portrayed as loving and caring, a son who was very close and unwilling to let her go. She recognized his need to connect and used the stories they shared to discuss those topics so difficult to broach at any time and especially at the end of life.
Some of the books I would like to read that they shared:
Continental Drift Russell Banks
A Long Way Gone Ishamel Beah
People of the Book Geraldine Brooks
The Lizard Cage Karen Connelly
Murder in the Cathedral T. S. Eliot
The Etiquette of Illness Susan Halpern
Full Catastrophe Living Jon Kabatt-Zinn
Big Machine Victor Lavalle
Too Much Happiness Alice Munro
Daily Strength for Daily Needs Mary Tileston
and that's only a handful of their list.
Published: 2012 Read: August 2014 Genre: Biography
addenda: I found some notes I'd taken on this book, quotes shared below:
Crossing to Safety - Stegner
I often forget that other people's stories aren't simply introductions to my own, more engaging, ore dramatic, more relevant, and better-told tales, but rather ends in themselves, tales I can learn from or repeat or dissect or savor.
That's one of the tings books do. They help us talk. But they also give us something we all can talk about when we don't want to talk about ourselves.
The world is complicated, You don't have to have one emotion at a time.
[from Gilead book] when you encounter another person, when you have dealings with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you. So you must think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation?
I realized then that for all of us, part of the process of Mom's dying was mourning not just her death but also the death of our dreams of things to come.
It's important to read about cruelty because...it's easier to recognize [it]. Evil almost always starts with small cruelties.
She felt whatever emotions she felt, but feeling was never a useful substitute for doing, and she never let the former get in the way of the latter. the emphasis for her was always on doing what needed to be done.
...a thank you note isn't the price you pay for receiving a gift, 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.
Hence the joy from thanking.
The Bolter - Irina - book
People don't have to do everything. You can also express yourself by what you chose to admire and support.