Book review: "When Breath Becomes Air" by Paul Kalanithi
This is a brief memoir of a life that ended far too early.
Paul Kalanithi, a resident neurosurgeon, has spent the last 10 years of his life supporting his patients’ medical, as well as emotional, needs. Now, Kalanithi finds himself a patient, after being diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer.
Death, so familiar to him in his work, is now paying a personal visit, and nothing seems recognizable. Even his identity as a surgeon evaporated in a moment.
The memoir begins with Kalanithi’s self-diagnosis, followed by his reflections about the choice to become a neurosurgeon. Then, Kalanithi describes being a patient and his struggles to live a normal life. The final part of the memoir is written by his wife following his death.
Kalanithi studied literature before becoming a surgeon, so his story reads like poetry.
This memoir, viewing death from two perspectives — that of doctor and of patient — is a somber contemplation of the meaning of death and life. His words are an inspiration.