2013-05-23 / Columns

Off the Bookshelf

By Maralee Kalianoff

The End of Your Life Book Club

“The End of Your Life Book Club” not only has a long title, it was a long, slow-moving book as well. In this true story, author Will Schwalbe tells of his mother’s battle with pancreatic cancer.

Will’s mom has been a true lover of books all of her life. When her children were babies, MaryAnne Schwalbe would read to her three children constantly. Books were a cornerstone of the Schwalbe’s family life when Doug, Will and Nina were growing up; their evenings were more likely spent reading than watching television.

Besides being an avid reader (a very fast reader, Mary Anne often read a book a day when she had time), Mary Anne was also a true humanitarian, traveling all over the world on mission trips. Deeply religious, Mary Anne had the desire to help people wherever needed and made it her life’s work. A retired teacher, Mary Anne had worked at some of America’s finest colleges, including Harvard and Radcliffe. She served on many boards for non-profit organizations and took a very active role on them. Her last campaign and the major project during her lifetime was getting a library built in Kabul, Afghanistan.

During her worldwide travels, MaryAnne often returned home ill, having picked up a “bug” in an impoverished country. Eventually, after returning from Afghanistan, doctors diagnosed the weak and run down lady with a rare type of hepatitis. Only months later did they finally realize the tiny, frail lady had advanced pancreatic cancer. Almost always fatal, pancreatic cancer normally claims its victim within six months or less.

Never one to complain, Mary Anne subjected her body to grueling treatments and exhausting stays in the hospital. It was at this time her son Will came upon the idea of forming their own Book Club of Two. While Mary Anne received her chemotherapy, the two of them would discuss the latest book that they had chosen for their club. It took her mind off of her treatments, at least for a little while, and they both found themselves looking forward to their next book and opportunity to discuss it.

After a courageous battle which raged on for over twenty months, 75-yearold dynamo Mary Anne Schwalbe passed away. By the time Will’s book was published, the Kabul library was finished.

Mary Anne Schwalbe was a remarkable woman, as Will’s book portrays; but everyone’s mom is special and remarkable in some way. I am sure Will was comforted by expressing his feelings in his book, but a full 90 percent of the books mentioned in the Book Club, which is a major portion of the book, would be unknown to the average reader, making it a little difficult to relate to Schwalbe’s book.

“The End of Your Life Book Club” can be found at the Harry L. Petrie Library in Linton.

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If a book you are looking for is not available at the Harry L. Petrie Library, Librarian Carla Frison will be happy to obtain it from the North Dakota State Library for you. If you return the book to the State Library in Bismarck within the allotted time, there is no charge. The staff can return it by mail but will have to charge you for postage.

Hours for the library in Linton are Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed on Tuesdays, 2-5 p.m. on Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and 2-5 p.m. on Friday. Friends of the Library meets every first Monday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Library. Everyone is welcome.

To contact Maralee, e-mail her: bonus73@hotmail.com and put Off the Bookshelf in the subject line.

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