paul kalanithi

“And even though I no longer really knew what it was, I felt it: a drop of hope. The fog surrounding my life rolled back another inch, and a sliver of blue sky peeked through.”


When breath becomes air is a gasping and profound memoir that can easily turn one into a sad sobbing mess. Honestly, I had to give myself a break before writing the review of this exquisite read to pull myself together.

At the age of thirty-six, Paul Kalanithi who is nearing completion of his training as a neurosurgeon realizes that he is skating on thin ice after being diagnosed with an aggressive stage IV lung cancer.

The reversal of fortune from a healthy physician to a patient makes Paula reassess on how he would spend the rest of his time, alive.

Paul Kalanithi had previously pursued English Literature and acquired a Master’s of the same. He considered books his closest confidants from a tender age. But he dithered between being a writer and a doctor.

He later applies for medical school as he desired to impact in the real world directly. Although he still holds onto his dream of becoming a writer later in his life. The later time turns out to be when he is in the hospital bed.

“We all have a notion of what it means to be good, and we can’t live up to it all the time.”

The book has four parts. In the first part, Paul Kalanithi describes his diagnoses. The second part talks about his change of careers from a writer to a doctor. The third part he describes what it feels like being in the shoes of a patient as a doctor, being a father and his deteriorating health.

Finally, the epilogue is written by his wife, a physician, who they went ahead to have a baby with after his diagnoses. She talks about her husband’s death, his journey of writing and their relationship.

I find hard to fathom how fast life was cut. Yet, grateful that Paul wrote such an insightful memoir in his last days. Life is worth living, regardless of how truncated it is.

Mood while reading this gem. 







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