March 15 2016

Book Review: When Breath Becomes Air

Every so often my sisters and I choose a book for our book club. We don’t have any rules, anyone can suggest a book at any time, as long as you think the others will enjoy it. When my sister Grace told me and Carol about “When Breath Becomes Air” I had already known about it because I follow the blog A Cup of Jo. The book was written by her brother-in-law, a brilliant young neurosurgeon who comes face to face with death when he’s diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

What makes the story so heartbreaking is that it’s completely true, Paul Kalanithi died of lung cancer just last year, leaving his wife Lucy (Joanna Goddard’s sister) and his daughter Cady behind. Paul loved the English language immensely, you can tell by the eloquent way he writes. As he describes life as both a physician and a patient, he makes the reader think about what life means on both sides of the equation.

I was most moved by his wife’s epilogue at the end. Paul died before he could finish the book so his wife took over, completing his journey. She describes the moments surrounding his death, the family gathering, the way she lied next to him in his hospital bed, and the many visits to his gravesite.

The book will make you think about your own mortality, what values you have, what you would do if you were in Paul Kalanithi’s shoes.

I loved this review the most:

“A tremendous book, crackling with life, animated by wonder and by the question of how we should live. Paul Kalanithi lived and died in the pursuit of excellence, and by this testimonial, he achieved it.”—Gavin Francis, author of Adventures in Human Being


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