Sunday, February 7, 2016

When Breath Becomes AIR

Hardcover, 228 pages
Published January 12th, 2016
Random House
SYNOPSIS
For readers of Atul Gawande, Andrew Solomon, and Anne Lamott, a profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. 

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a na├»ve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

REVIEW
When I read the book’s blurb I was thrilled “It contains some of my favorite qualities in a book, medicine, death, it is also an autobiography and due to the abundant amount of hype this book has been receiving I have to get my hands on a copy”. Well, since you are reading my review I did compliments of Netgalley and Random House.

Paul Kalanithi died before he “technically” could finish the book. In my opinion, it is complete he got to the perfect point for an ending and seemed to have purged everything he needed to out on paper. One thing you realize right away is how philosophical the author is about most things even down to what profession, he will choose for himself:

“I was less driven by achievement then trying to understand...What makes human life meaningful? Literature provided the best account of the life of the mind, while neuroscience laid down the most elegant rules of the brain”   

Nothing in this book was overly depressing to me. Paul wrote in such a way that even though the topic was sad he wrote with a positive and courageous outlook. Therefore, facing death with integrity, respect and finally understanding a very important part of being the doctor while on the opposite side being the patient:

“ How little do doctors understand the hells through which we put patients”.

I think this is an interesting read. It is well written especially considering the time that he was given to write it. This must have been a Cathartic experience for Paul writing this book going back through his life and knowing that during the time God gave him on earth he was a crucial part of mankind.



“Always the seer is a sayer, Somehow he publishes it with solemn joy”  

                                 ~Emerson                                  




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