Monday, June 17, 2013

The Best Food Ever Book Club Reads The End of Your Your Life Book Club

Written by Will Schwalbe, this novel pictured above, covers the author's journey through his mother's bout with pancreatic cancer. While I believe most editors would say that one cannot write a book about someone who gets sick and then dies, Schwalbe manages to do this quite successfully.  While it certainly feels like a story to anyone undergoing such an event, it is typically not enough to sustain fiction; something else needs to be added to the mix. How this author manages to hold our interest involves the device of discussing the books he read with his mother while she was undergoing the full course of chemotherapy. At the same time, they also discuss years of reading and other books they loved and shared.

In the end, the approach does work and people have been reading it in droves. The author's mother had an interesting life that keeps the reader engaged, as we are invited to look back on her years of helping refugees. A working woman ahead of her time, she managed to keep the home fires burning and make lively and interesting friends from all parts of the world. Her desire to build a library in Afghanistan make her admirable and the fact that she accepts her fate with grace, only adds to her strengths.

While reading, I felt I wanted to see a bit more of her flaws. We have had this discussion for the last twenty-two years  in my reading group, made palatable because we are the 'best food ever book club.' It seems to me that defects and faults make characters more interesting. Fellow readers will say they do not care for a novel, no matter how well written it is, if they do not like the character. It is one of those avenues where we agree to disagree. I am waiting, with baited breath, to see how this age old difference of opinion will play out. If one person agrees with me, and says they would like to know about at least a few faults in this admirable woman, then I can say, “Aha.” However, I know full well that it will not change anything.

What are character flaws? Because of the age we live in, I turned to Google for the answers. From Ten Ugliest Character Flaws

1. Arrogant, argumentative
3.Short tempered-combative
4.Need to always be right (conceited)
5.Perfectionist, nit picking.
6.Being a victim, always blaming the other guy
7.Selfish, miserly
8.Stubborn, rigid
9.Vain, prideful (haughty)
10. Humorless, inability to laugh at oneself

When my husband was studying for his post graduate degree, his class was asked to write a list of the ten worst traits in humankind. They all scribbled furiously, slammed the pencil smugly down and looked up at the professor. He said, "Now, take up the piece of paper and look at your self portrait."

Carson Reeves put together another great list that is even more straightforward in Script Shadow. He adds well known movies where we can see this exhibited.

1. Puts work in front of family and friends. Zero Dark Thirty
2. Won't let others in. Good Will Hunting.
3.Doesn't believe in one's self. Rocky Balboa. King George VI in The King's Speech.
4.Doesn't stand up for one's self. George McFly in Back to the Future. Cameron in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
5.Too selfish. Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.
6.Won't Grow Up. 40 year old Virgin.
7. Too uptight, too anal. Pretty Woman.
8.Too reckless. James T. Kirk in Star Trek.
9. Lost Faith, Mel Gibson in Signs
10. Pessimism/ cynicism Sideways.

Reading this list, it is easy to see how some flaws lend themselves beautifully to tragedy and others to comedy. It is our weaknesses that make us real and indeed, at times, lovable.When describing a heroic type, he better have some defects, or we will not relate. The same can be said of antagonists. A guy who blows his stack and kills his wife, but loves his dog, is believable. No one is all good or all bad- we are a complex soup of both.

If you are looking for something to read this summer, you get two for the price of one with The End of Your Life Book Club. You will enjoy the story and get a reading list to boot. As I tend to read my way through life's trials and have for as long as I can recall, I particularly enjoyed the certain truth, that if you are put to bed with an illness, it is the perfect time to read and read and read, until the book falls on the floor and you are at the end. Hopefully, we all  still have many volumes ahead. 

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