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Houston, TX | Book Blogger| tangledintext@gmail.com

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi REVIEW

May 25, 2019

 

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 naïve 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.

 

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

 

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.

 

Find HERE on Amazon

Thank you for everyone that recommended this book to me. When Breath Becomes Air was sobering. The title is beautiful. I've grazed over the title so many times and it's fluidity is beautiful, but for some reason it stayed at the surface for me and didn't sink in until about halfway through the book when I took my first break. I closed the book and read those words again with intention for the first time and the depth of the phrase sunk in and I cried. It's a terrifying, gut-wrenching reminder that what once was something can become nothing in an instant. It fits this book perfectly for so many reasons and it's terrifying and moving before you even begin the story.

I love stepping into other people's lives and professions through stories, but I've never heard a perspective quite like this one. I now have a whole new level of respect for people in the medical industry.

There are many parts to this book that were sobering and they are not just his acceptance of fate and continued fight to live while up against the unknown. The journey he takes through his medical discipline and all he has to go through from his first stitches to finding the balance of quality and quantity he feels is acceptable. The push young medical professional get to learn speed first and precision later. The evolution and struggle he goes through to see the patient behind the paperwork. The lack of control in going from a doctor to a patient and having the same statistics kept from him that he kept from his patients.

 

I was enamored by every piece of Paul's story from his childhood to his profession to his outlook on life. A true inspiration and strong force to be remembered.

 

 Find out more information at: http://paulkalanithi.com

 

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