Books About Dying: “Book Club” and “Exit Laughing”

Two recent books about dying—done with humor. One with a good dose of humor and the other with humor as a theme.

In addition, a relevant scene from the comedy Roseanne (1988-97) is one of its best ever.

I. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

When humanitarian Mary Anne Schwalbe was living with terminal cancer, her son Will came up with an unusual idea for an activity for them. And now, a few years after her death, you can read about in the recently released The End of Your Life Book Club.

Says son/author Will in the New York Times, “I privately dubbed our club ‘The End of Your Life Book Club,’ not to remind myself that Mom was dying, but so I would remember that we all are — that you never know what book or conversation will be your last.”

II. Exit Laughing: How Humor Takes the Sting Out of Death, edited by Victoria Zackheim

The second of these books about dying is Exit Laughing: How Humor Takes the Sting Out of Death, edited by Victoria Zackheim. From the publisher’s blurb: “As painful as it is to lose a loved one, Exit Laughing shows us that in times of grief, humor can help us with coping and even healing.”

In this collection, various authors tell true stories about dying and loss. For example: “…Amy Ferris explains how her mother’s dementia led to a permanent ban from an airline…Bonnie Garvin even manages to find a heavy dose of dark humor in her parents’ three unsuccessful attempts at a double suicide.”

Shelf Awareness“Death happens, and the writers in Exit Laughing show that humor can serve as an acceptable and beneficial means to mend broken hearts. Laughter, Zackheim writes in her introduction, ‘can open the door to emotions shared, and perhaps through this sharing we can not only process the reality of death but mend the complex and often difficult relationships we share with the person who is dying.'”

Sara Pritchard, author: “As funny and poignant as Harold and MaudeExit Laughing makes it clear that even the Grim Reaper will put on a monkey face and maybe even giggle, when tickled.”

Beverly Donofrio, author: “This gem of an anthology about what we fear, avoid, would rather not mention, let alone read about—death—is the funniest book I’ve read in years. Exit Laughing is a bold, outrageous, never sanctimonious, death-defying collection that looks straight in the eye of the inevitable while making you laugh real tears.”

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