We’ve finished month 2 of our Be Inspired Book Club! This Book Club is going by so quickly and we’re already 2 books down. I can tell 2017 is just going to fly by.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.
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 mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.
My thoughts: Nope- too sad. This book killed me (I apologize, that’s horrible word choice) to read. It physically hurt as I read Kalanithi’s words. He wrote so poetically to share such profound ideas that it really touched me, but it was really just a little too depressing for me.
One of the hardest parts for me was reading about the reality setting in for Kalanaithi. I won’t spoil anything for any of you who may really want to read it, but even though I’ve never experienced anything like this and I don’t know anyone really closely and intimately who has (or I should say I don’t understand this experience in the same way), I felt like this was personal. It’s extremely well written, but painful to read.
Would I recommend this book? Mmm…it would depend. Definitely not to someone who wanted something fun and easy to read.
My favorite quotes:
- “Books became my closest confidants, finely ground lenses providing new views on the world.”
- “The good news is I’ve already outlived two Brontës, Keats, and Stephen Crane. The bad news is that I haven’t written anything.”
Did you read the book? Have you heard of this book and thought about picking it up but never had the chance? Tell me what your thoughts are! And please join us for March’s reading of Daring Greatly!