After The Obelisk Gate, I was at a temporary loss at which book to read next. I eventually started on The End of Your Life Book Club, and continued On the Move, the Oliver Sacks memoir that I picked up from the library a while ago.
Will Schwalbe, the author of The End of Your Life Book Club, started writing this when his mother was being treated for cancer. They spent many hours sitting in the hospital waiting together, and to pass the time, they started talking about books. They got around to exchanging books, and Will told his mom that this will be a bookclub of two.
It was the state of my mind then, which led me to pick up The End of Your Life Book Club. I am following up on some medical issues right now, and it has led me to some reconsideration of my life and my priorities. I have also been spending too much time in the hospital waiting room this year, and on days when I forgot to bring something to read, the waiting just feels harder. Which is perhaps why The End of Your Life Book Club rang true to me; I have always believed a person's brings their own experience and state of mind into the books they read. We are meaning-makers, and if someone is made conscious of their own mortality, how will this likely influence their reading?
I was reading this book last week while waiting in the hospital waiting room. So far, it feels interesting, and the conversations between the family and their dying mother were touching. They obviously love their mother. Sadly, it reminded me of my own damaged relationship with my mother. I thought about how it was all those weekly Saturday trips to the library with my mother, that probably turned me into the reader that I am now. Yet ironically, I have never discussed books with my mother.
I'm barely a quarter into the book, but it has already made a recommendation for a title to check out: Susan Halpern's Etiquette of Illness. The book was supposed to be able how to talk to people with illness. It's something that I feel I should pass to friends and acquaintances. To offer as a guide on how to approach this.
Some tips from the book on how to approach the people with illness:
1. Ask: "Do you want to talk about how you're feeling?"
2. Don't ask if there's anything you can do. Suggest things, or if it's not intrusive, just do them.
3. You don't have to talk all the time. Sometimes just being there is enough.
I felt there could also be a fourth tip - depending on the person, it is also important to know when to give space, and respect their need for privacy. Most of all, don't always assume you know better - because you don't.