endDuring her treatment for cancer, Mary Anne Schwalbe and her son Will spent many hours sitting in waiting rooms together. To pass the time, they would talk about the books they were reading. Once, by chance, they read the same book at the same time—and an informal book club of two was born. Through their wide-ranging reading, Will and Mary Anne—and we, their fellow readers—are reminded how books can be comforting, astonishing, and illuminating, changing the way that we feel about and interact with the world around us.

When does a loving tribute turn into a sentimental dialogue of soppiness? The answer to that, dear reader, is in the hands that hold the book!

Our group was polarised somewhat this month. One member loved this book so much she purchased a copy for her shelf. She found the book discussions between mother and son extremely interesting and their journey endearing, and to a certain degree, reassuring. She loved the fact that Will took time out of his life to transport his ill mother to treatment, help her with a blog and generally support her through a life-ending illness. Doing all this without a hint of regret or selfish regard really is a mother’s greatest wish. We could all be so beholden!

Then there was the opposite side of the pole … these views found the saccharine discourse repetitive, dreary and simply too good and sweet to believe. Rather than feeling empathy for Mary Anne, they felt inadequate (the woman must have been a Saint!) and some felt the author gave into the urge to glorify his mother’s life. Therapy writing? Maybe … but most of our readers could not summon the empathy needed to consent to such a faultless accolade.

Grant it, these comments did not come without a certain amount of guilt … everyone felt they should have had more sympathy for someone fighting cancer so stoically. But then again, isn’t that the writer’s job …to arouse these emotions in us?

It was decided that the book itself was meant to pay homage to the author’s mother and heal a heart that had lost someone special. A nice thought, but something more honest, without the name dropping may have generated just a little more empathy within our group’s more stringent members.