22 June 2013

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

The End of Your Life Book Club 5 stars

This was a book that an online book club I belong to was reading a few months ago. I had to wait for a copy to become available at the library, so I missed the chance to read it with The Book Addicts on GoodReads. I'm glad though that I did read it, even if I did get an odd comment from one of my managers at work. He thought it was a zombie book.

The author and his family learn that their matriarch has cancer, not just any kind but pancreatic cancer. Basically its a death sentence. Nearly everyone dies of pancreatic cancer, the point is to make the most of the time that you have left. Mary Anne Schwalbe is a brave woman, no matter how many times she tells you the contrary. She has survived many trips to the Middle East and Africa in her efforts to help women and refugees. Her last triumph was to have a library built near Kabul (forgive me if I am incorrect here, but I am sure it was in Afghanistan or Pakistan...). She gave so much of herself that at the end of her life it was hard to allow others to give to her.

It started in a waiting room for chemotherapy. Her son, Will, asks that one question that every reader loves to hear, "What are you reading?" And so began The End of Your Life Book Club. They spent almost two years sharing books, re-reading old favourites and discovering new authors. They used the books to help each other through an incredibly difficult time, they laughed, loved and read their way through the worst thing any one can imagine, the death of a loved one. Through it all Mary Anne and Will maintained their love for reading and each other by diving into a venture that they would never have the chance to do again.

I think what I loved most about this book was that it wasn't a eulogy, not really. Sure, Will misses his mother, loved her deeply, wanted the world to know the amazing woman that had given him life. What Will Schwalbe did was to show us that love doesn't end, it grows stronger. Take the time to show, to tell the people you love that you do care about them. Listen to them. Celebrate the fact that they have been and always will be a part of your life.

My mother has degenerative disc disease and is in constant pain, though she never really shows it. This book made me stop and think of how fortunate I am to be her daughter. She imparted to me the same gift that Mary Anne did to her children, especially Will, she gave me the love of reading, of human thought, of creativity. I am proud to be part of her life, and I hope... no I know she feels the same. She tells me all the time, along with the famous "If I can draw a smiley face in the dust on your dresser, you need to clean!"

I would love to have a chat with Mr Schwalbe, and let him know how much I appreciated a book that made me love my own mother more, that made me cry (which doesn't happen often) and that made me think how grand it is to have a woman we call Mom who shows us the incredible gift of reading.

16 June 2013

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help 2Stars

I really wanted to like this book. I wanted to enjoy it as much as I had To Kill a Mockingbird because they have similar themes. Being black in the south was (and still is in some places) almost a death sentence, your life is crammed into a box of prejudice and there isn't a way out. I was hoping for a book that would show how a group of women made there way to a brighter future, instead I was handed the one thing I fear about books with female leads... I was given boredom. I rarely have good fortune with woman as protagonists. They always do the insipid pitty party and it annoys me.

Female leads always lean toward depressive episodes, emotional fits of tears, gossip mongering, and salacious deeds of misconduct. As a woman, it ticks me off! In The Help, we have two black women who work for white women, they do everything except wipe their pearly back-sides. The women do what they can to not try and rise above their "station" as servants. Enter the white girl outside town. She wants to make her way out of her role as a female, she doesn't want to marry and have kids. She wants to write, which endeared her to me, but only slightly. I felt she used these women to excel herself, pushing them into saying and doing things they normally wouldn't have.

Maybe its just that I was insanely bored by this little novel, but I didn't care to read it when it came out, fearing the massive amount of estrogen contained therein. I really did want to enjoy this book, but alas, it was literary algae. It looked great, but had no substance.
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