Good Books Lift You!

Good Books Lift You!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Review: When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“When Breath Becomes Air” is a very moving account of Paul Kalanithi’s life, especially since being diagnosed with cancer. Paul has a very promising career – at first he does a Masters in English and then moves on to neurosurgery. He explains this well – he has a deep rooted interest in seeking true meaning and suggests that it has to be at the intersection of philosophy and the sciences. He later forms the opinion that despite the hard nature of the work, neurosurgery places him nearest to his quest.

Paul is diagnosed with lung cancer in his thirties, after he shows symptoms of weight loss and body pain. His life changes totally after that, and he now sees life as a patient. The metamorphosis from a doctor to a terminally ill patient is a very revealing experience for Paul. There are also many unknowns and decisions to be made – can he get back to neurosurgery ever, how much time does he have and how should he spend it, how he should be secure his wife Lucy’s future. After considerable debate, he and his wife decide to start a family.

The treatment shows promise initially and the cancer does not progress. Paul gets back to neurosurgery, and gradually almost maintains his earlier busy schedules with sheer willpower. After a few weeks, though, his health suffers setbacks with more tumors and the line of treatment proving difficult. The birth of their daughter is a joyous moment which Paul cherishes.

The writing is extremely good – almost poetic, and if only time had allowed Paul to write more. The afterword by his wife Lucy is very touching as well. As she says – Paul maintained his composure and dignity at all times and faced death bravely. He was never broken, and his life offers lessons for others. This is also a story of a strong family with Paul’s parents, brothers, his wife Lucy and daughter where death visited the person they loved dearly, much too soon. For his daughter Elizabeth Acadia, it is a poignant record of the remarkable person her dad was – deeply intellectual and very human.

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  1. Hello Bharath,
    What a moving review! I'll be sure to hunt this book down. You've such a wonderful perspective on life and love as we know it. Would you be amenable to reading and reviewing a collection of short stories? Author Sharat Kumar has a collection of short stories coming out this time in January. In each of the 13 stories, uncovers the New Age woman and the chemistry between men and women in contemporary India. Whether spinning a yarn about an Army romance, or the affection between two divorcees; Kumar holds a mirror to how sparks fly.
    If you're interested, I'd love to provide a PDF of the upcoming book to be reviewed in your particular fun, free and fearless way. Just ping me back at the email address hritvick.dv(@)gmail dot com.

    Cheers, and keep blogging.

  2. Hritvick, thanks for your comment. Have sent you an email! Bharath