Author: Paul Kalanithi
Publisher: Random house Audio
Listening time:5 hrs 35 mins
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 making a living treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. Just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air, which features a Foreword by Dr. Abraham Verghese and an Epilogue by Kalanithi’s wife, Lucy, 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 young neurosurgeon at Stanford, guiding patients toward a deeper understanding of death and illness, and finally into a patient and a new father to a baby girl, confronting his own mortality.
The book is a difficult book to review just like "The last lecture and Being mortal".The author at 36 after a decade being a student has finally reached at his prime of his career as a neurosurgeon .When he thought that he had it all he loses it all to lung cancer.
The memoir begins with him being almost certain for having cancer even before the diagnosis were made.
Then the book moves back to his childhood with where his immigrant parents always who pushed him and his siblings to succeed in life. His diverse degrees in history and philosophy , English literature, human biology and finally MD from Yale to become a neurosurgeon shoes varied interest . Kalanithi had great love for literature and its sad that his debut book became his final.With all his interesting degrees he always wonder where did all this intersect. From literature to medicine we see how his thought process changes to become more matured and practical at the same time..He marriage to Lucy and his life as a surgeon slowly gets to us as we know that all this beautiful life is set to crumble in next few pages ahead. How would a father feel when he knows that he would never get to know his baby girl.
During the last days he tries to find meaning of life introspecting and meditating about it which also becomes part of this book. Kalanithi and Lucy make all the decision with the support his family and friends starting with chemo and a visit to sperm bank for their future.As a couple they had decided to start a family at the end of his residency and its so disheartening to learn the painful truth that we make so many plans in life such wonderful colourful future that might be lost in a second and everything just loses its meaning but that is kalanithi tries to emphasis that even at the face of death one shouldn't lose hope.Their daughter Cady was born eight months before Kalanithi's demise.
There is an epilogue by Lucy speaking about his husband at his deathbed his take on life even though he was losing his battle to cancer each day.That was a real heart breaker.No one in the world should ever put in a stage where they have to prepare themselves for the lose of their loved ones yet death is an inevitable part of our life.
The book is a very sad read yet it emphasis on the beauty of life that each of us behold.