Longtime book world friend Will Schwalbe published a lovely Op-Ed on Mother’s Day, drawn from his forthcoming The End of Your Life Book Club. It opens with Will and his ailing mother in a medical office awaiting a chemotherapy appointment. He asks her what she’s reading–it’s Wallace Stegner’s aptly titled Crossing To Safety. “It was a book that I’d always pretended to have read, but never actually had. That day, I promised her I’d read it.” Soon, over the months of treatment and convalescence until her passing, they find mutual comfort in discussing the books they are reading in a kind personal book club all their own.
It’s touching story, and as I read the column I found myself in Will’s place, glad for the solace provided by these books and the opportunity for closeness shared reading offered them.
Having operated a family-owned bookstore–Undercover Books in Cleveland, Ohio–and later losing both my parents, Earl and Sylvia, and my brother Joel, I look back on all the books we shared and enjoyed over the years. I just have to look at my home library and dozens of memories and conversations come cascading forth, from the novels alone: Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale; Peter Rushforth’s, Kindergarten; Jack Finney’s Time and Again; Mary Tirone-Smith’s The Book of Phoebe; James Crumley’s The Last Good Kiss; Howard Frank Mosher’s Disappearances; Philip Kerr’s March Violets; Ernest Hebert’s Dogs of March. This list could go on indefinitely.
Will’s new book will be out in the fall. I’m eager to read it.