Discussion Questions

Cover of The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
Portrait of Will Schwalbe

Now that you have read The End of Your Life Book Club, discuss it. Visit one of the Library’s book clubs or use the following questions to hold your own discussion.

Discussion Questions

  1. Does this book have a central theme? What is it?
  2. Why does Mary Anne always read a book’s ending first? How does this reflect her character?
  3. Early in the book, Will writes, “I wanted to learn more about my mother’s life and the choices she’d made, so I often steered the conversation there. She had an agenda of her own, as she almost always did. It took me some time, and some help, to figure it out.” What was Mary Anne’s agenda?
  4. Mary Anne underlined a passage in Seventy Verses on Emptiness, which resonated with Will: “Permanent is not; impermanent is not; a self is not; not a self [is not]; clean is not; not clean is not; happy is not; suffering is not.” Why did this strike both of them as significant? What do you think it means?
  5. Throughout the book, Will talks about books as symbols and sources of hope. How has reading books served a similar function for you?
  6. While reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, Will and Mary Anne discuss three kinds of fateful choices: “the ones characters make knowing that they can never be undone; the ones they make thinking they can but learn they can’t; and the ones they make thinking they can’t and only later come to understand, when it’s too late, when ‘nothing can be undone,’ that they could have.” What kind of choices did Mary Anne make during her cancer treatment? Did she or Will make any of the third type?
  7. How does religious belief help Mary Anne? How do you think it might have helped Will?
  8. Will is amazed by his mother’s ability to continue her efforts to fund the Library in Afghanistan even while facing a death sentence, until he realizes that “she used her emotions to motivate her and help her concentrate. The emphasis for her was always on doing what needed to be done. I had to learn this lesson while she was still there to teach me.” Did Will learn? What makes you think so?
  9. “We’re all in the end-of-our-life book club, whether we acknowledge it or not; each book we read may well be the last, each conversation the final one.” How did this realization affect Will’s final days with his mom?
  10. Which of the books discussed by Will and Mary Anne have you read? Which do you most want to read?

Please visit the publisher's reading group guide for more discussion questions.