5.0 out of 5 stars -- I do not usually read memoirs or nonfiction but I was drawn to this because the forward was written by Abraham Verghese, the author of one of my favorite books of all time -- CUTTING FOR STONE.
Ostensibly, the book is about the life of Dr. Paul Kalanithi, a young man who is in the last year of his neurosurgery residency when he is diagnosed with lung cancer. We know at the outset that he has recently died, leaving behind a wife and an 8-month-old baby girl. But the true nature of his writing is the underlying theme -- Why are we here -- what is the purpose of life.
The book is not maudlin or dramatic, and it's not for everyone. There's a lot of medical detail and literature references that some might find pretentious or overwhelming. After all, Paul initially majored in Literature before he was called to become a physician and surgeon. The reader learns of Paul's early years, growing up in Arizona, and about his education and training in his young adulthood. Then it shifts to his changed circumstances and his treatment after being diagnosed. We see glimpses into his personal life and hear about his closeness to his family, colleagues and friends. What the book most definitely not is a roadmap, nor a guide of how to navigate a terminal illness -- it's not a story of how he found religion, and it definitely does not provide THE ANSWER.
I feel that the mark of a really great book is when it makes me think. When it causes me to pause for periods of intense self-reflection. I do not want to live an unexamined life. I read this over the course of a couple of hours and had to take a break just to reflect on some of Paul's personal insights. These were his thoughts, his reactions, his decisions. What would mine be, given my own life situations. It made me wish that this poetic soul had received the gift of more time. I came away from this reading experience humbled by his story. I would like to think I will go gently and courageously, not screaming WHY ME -- but none of us knows until it happens. Can a person prepare for death, really?
I'd recommend this for the beautiful prose and for giving the opportunity to see what one man did and said and thought during the last months of his life. How would I like to be remembered...what will I leave behind.
Thank you to NetGalley for the e-book ARC to review.
This was a sad but heartwarming book about a young doctor diagnosed with lung cancer. It is a story about his hopes and dreams and his battle with this awful disease. Well written and a truly remarkable young man..
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi are the words of a physician taking a philosophical look at his own profession and the words of a young man brought face to face with his own mortality. What can I possibly say about a book that comprises the final words of a dying man? My recommendation - Read it, and then perhaps read it again. It will leave you changed.
Read my complete review at: http://www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2016/02/when-breath-becomes-air.html
Reviewed based on a publisher's galley received through NetGalley
Paul Kalanithi has to be one of the smartest, bravest men I have ever had the opportunity to learn about. While studying and becoming a neurosurgeon/neuroscientist, he learns of becoming afflicted with lung cancer. Paul had entered college studying literature, and was going to become a writer. He decided that his curiosity about death and science prompted him to become a neurosurgeon.
This man had such a deep longing to understand the pain, the depth of anguish experienced by someone given a diagnosis of death, that he found he needed to write about his own experience.
Unfortunately, he had not finished the book before he was taken. His wife fills in the gap and kudos to her for letting us know her love for him.
Great book!!!! Finished the book in 3 day!!! Felt like i was apart of the family!
I read this at a time when family and friends are dealing with these life changing moments. One facing death from cancer, another the effects of a brain tumor, another died the day after we were with him at hospice. So in a way it was good timing for me to read of a doctor turned patient the day of a funeral. I sensed that those who got him as a doctor were fortunate, unlike the ones who probably got the equivalent of the medical resident who wouldn't give him the medication he was supposed to take.
I've spent my fair share of time in doctors offices, with tests, and medical lingo. It is an often overwhelming world. I think what I liked most was Paul's desire to find what mattered most to a person, what they identified with and try to get them close to that again after surgery or medical procedures. His acceptance of his death almost seemed peaceful. I "ugly cried" during the epilogue which I felt more connection and emotion in than the book which was more clinical, philosophical, and detached at times. Granted Paul wrote the book and his wife the epilogue so two authors essentially.
Paul's question of what makes life worth living (and in a sense death preferable) is one we should all ponder and decide for ourselves.