“What a remarkable book! Not only a love letter to his mom, but a love letter to books and their power to help us all remember both the struggle and the joy it is to be human and the grace we can find in our shared humanity. I fell head over heels for Mary Ann Schwalbe, thanks to her son's meticulous and loving tribute. In someone else's hands this is the kind of book that could have slipped into the maudlin or overwrought, but Schwalbe succeeds in portraying his mother's quiet, humble, spot-on wisdom and beautiful daring with both restraint and passion. My copy is thoroughly dog-eared. Is there any better tribute?”
— Laurie Paus, The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA
"What are you reading?"
That's the question Will Schwalbe asks his mother, Mary Anne, as they sit in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2007, Mary Anne returned from a humanitarian trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan suffering from what her doctors believed was a rare type of hepatitis. Months later she was diagnosed with a form of advanced pancreatic cancer, which is almost always fatal, often in six months or less.
This is the inspiring true story of a son and his mother, who start a "book club" that brings them together as her life comes to a close. Over the next two years, Will and Mary Anne carry on conversations that are both wide-ranging and deeply personal, prompted by an eclectic array of books and a shared passion for reading. Their list jumps from classic to popular, from poetry to mysteries, from fantastic to spiritual. The issues they discuss include questions of faith and courage as well as everyday topics such as expressing gratitude and learning to listen. Throughout, they are constantly reminded of the power of books to comfort us, astonish us, teach us, and tell us what we need to do with our lives and in the world. Reading isn't the opposite of doing; it's the opposite of dying.
Will and Mary Anne share their hopes and concerns with each other--and rediscover their lives--through their favorite books. When they read, they aren't a sick person and a well person, but a mother and a son taking a journey together. The result is a profoundly moving tale of loss that is also a joyful, and often humorous, celebration of life: Will's love letter to his mother, and theirs to the printed page.