When Breath Becomes Air by Dr Paul Kalanithi

“Life is what happens to you when you are busy making plans”. I am reminded of this quote when I finished reading Dr Paul Kalanithi’s – When Breath Becomes Air.

Dr Kalanithi, at the age of 36, was all set to step onto the centre stage. His lengthy medical training was about to bear fruits for he was just 15 months short  to becoming a professor of neurosurgery. As he mentioned in the book “I had earned the respect of my seniors, won prestigious national awards, and was fielding job offers from several major universities… I had reached the mountaintop; I could see the Promised Land”. And at the peak of that mountain he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

Reading this book and forgetting about it might just not be possible, for many parts of it will linger on you for quite sometime after the read. This book has been written in a manner that will hold on to you, establishing a bond with the author.  The book is divided in two parts:

First one talks about his life and how he entered the field of neuroscience despite his deep love for literature.

The second part is mostly about his struggle to cope with the fact that he may be dying at one moment, living the other and worsening of his condition in the end.

Apart from the book itself, the most powerful and impactful feature is the epilogue which is written by his wife Lucy. The difficulties faced by the patient, about to die, is just one part of the trembling coin, but the cognition inside the hearts and minds of the relatives is exceptionally well described by his wife. If you are a being breathing on emotions, her words will prove to be tear-jerking for you.

‘when breath becomes air’ is beautiful and a must read for everyone who starts taking life, family, loved ones for granted. This book makes you realize that while you are making other plans, something else may be in store for you.

This book is a 4-star for me, and not a 5-star, just for the reason that at times the author tried to go a bit philosophical about life. As long as his story was being told, the reader can understand the philosophy behind it. He needn’t go into detail.

But still a must read!

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