Book Review: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

I completed reading this book in three days. You can read it faster than me ( I am a slow reader). I am writing this review today. I could have chosen to write tomorrow or day after tomorrow but I thought of writing the review today itself, 9th March 2020. Exactly today, 5 years ago the author of this book “When Breath Becomes Air” took his last breath.

What comes to your mind when you read the title of this book? When breath becomes air, and when does it happen? Yet obvious, when a person dies. When a person dies, he becomes a body.

I don’t know from where to start. How should I begin, with the author or with his wife (who wrote the epilogue)? The epilogue is so touching that I couldn’t control my tears. How strong was the author, how strong is his wife and how strong is the whole family? Is that we are born so strong or is it that the circumstances make us strong? I don’t know.

The writer of this book, Dr. Paul Kalanithi, was a neurosurgeon whose life changed drastically when he was diagnosed with Lung Cancer. His journey as a doctor and a patient holds you throughout his journey. His struggle to understand death and the true meaning of life brings him so close to death that he dies at a very early age.

The deep knowledge of the author in his subject is well evident in the book. His passion for Literature and Science makes this book a masterpiece in its own way. The book is an autobiography where the author writes his journey as a doctor who turns into a cancer patient, how he fights back everyday to prove himself as a neurosurgeon while devastated by his terminal illness.

It’s an amazing book to read where the author finds answer for various questions that we to ask in our lives at one time or the other. He asks about pain, he asks about sufferings, he asks about the true meaning of life, he asks about death, he asks about the purpose of life and death. He questions the existence of God. He tries to find the answers about life and death in Science and Literature.

I can’t deny that I loved this book but sometimes I felt scared when he mentioned the surgical processes, surgical instruments, as a doctor. His mention of some cancer patients and him being terribly suffering from cancer gives an intense pain to the reader too. I felt so connected to him when he described the pain and suffering of his patients, their families, etc. The reader can feel how terrible CANCER is and how it turns the life of any individual and the family members upside down in a moment.

At some point of time, I really felt depressed. Too much of cancer can depress anyone. Pain, sufferings, chemotherapy, mentions of cancer drugs are enough to cause depression in the reader. But what else you expect from one who is dying everyday?

Today, I also felt pity for the doctors who work so hard. Doctors who fight for their patients every day and night. Doctors who go for surgery for several hours.

I read the epilogue with tears rolling from my eyes continuously. I seriously don’t know how Lucy Kalanithi, the wife of the author got the courage to write the epilogue. Hats off to the wife who took care of her husband so well, allowed him to work as a neurosurgeon and complete his residency. Without the support of family nobody can achieve so much. I think, Lucy is way more stronger than Paul. I might be wrong, but this is my personal opinion.

Death is certain, as certain as birth is. We can’t deny this fact. We can avoid looking at it but it stares at us. Death is the truth that we feel hard to understand. Death is so real but who wants to die?

Paul Kalanithi, a dedicated neurosurgeon, a hard working doctor, a passionate scientist, a writer, an avid reader, and a fantastic human being on the whole. The way he writes the book is so raw, so painful and so touching.

You will feel heavy hearted while reading this book. You might feel bad and depressed while reading this book. Let’s accept that death will come one day to everyone of us. Nobody is immortal. We can’t ignore death. Then what is important? The importance is how we accept it. How should we live our lives everyday is more important. It’s important to accept the truth and live our lives the way we want to live. Keep no grudges, keep living and have faith.

Read this book if you want to experience death so closely. Read this book only if you can control your emotions until the end. Read this book for a tragic story. Read this book for a doctor-patient transformation. Read this book for an emotional and heartfelt epilogue that drives the reader intensely.

If you have already read this book, please share your feedbacks with me. Please let me know how you liked this book. Also, let me know whether you liked this review or not. Thank you for stopping by and reading 🙏🙏.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

  1. You have written an excellent review of this book.
    It is interesting when you mentioned that you had tears while reading parts of it.
    I always think of the ability to cry as a gift.
    Crying releases stress hormones, and is nature’s way of allowing us to have a natural healing response to feelings of sadness.

    Thanks for sharing the review, and thanks for reminding us all that every breath is a precious gift. 🤗

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Namrata. Your provided an excellent review of the book. I have just finished reading this book and my review of the book is available on my page. Whilst reading your review I felt as if I am reading the book all over again and yes I also had tears when I read the epilogue. It’s sad that a person with such intellect is not with us.

    Liked by 1 person

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