Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February Book: When Breath Becomes Air

How can it already be the last day of February? Also, today is my husband's 31st birthday! It also happens to be book club day! I hope you enjoyed When Breath Becomes Air as much as I did! 

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

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 na├»ve 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: This book is a tearjerker, for sure. I was reading this book in the car with my in-laws and Daniel, bawling my eyes out. The author, Paul Kalanithi, is no longer alive (this isn't a spoiler, the book starts out that way). Paul tells about his life as a surgeon who truly cares about his patients. His character really shines through and I grew to feel that Paul was someone I wish I could have known in person. His wife finishes the book after he died and what she writes to her daughter is very telling of the man he was: "Please know that all the wonderful things people are saying now about your dad are true. He really was that good and that brave."

This isn't a story a man who is unafraid of death. He says he doesn't want to die, he wants to continue living with his family and being a neurosurgeon. I appreciated this because I find it hard to relate to books where the author faces death with no fear. He didn't want to die, but he did it with grace. Another thing I really loved about the book was an insider look at the life of a neurosurgeon. I never thought about a surgeon's perspective and it was quite fascinating. 

Read this book if: You can read a book that it is heartbreaking, yet inspiring. This was a great book but I would not recommend it if you are going through a death in the family or another hard time, just because it might be too hard to read right now. Also, only read this book if you can handle coming to adore an author who dies at the end. 

Inspiring thoughts from the author:

Our patients' lives and identities may be in our hands, yet death always wins. Even if you are perfect, the world isn't. The secret is to know that the deck is stacked, that you will lose, that your hand s or judgement will slip, and yet still struggle to win for your patients. You can't ever reach perfections, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving. When Breath Becomes Air, pg 114-115

That morning, I made my decision: I would push myself to return to the OR. Why? Because I could. Because that's who I was. Because I would have to learn to live in a different way, seeing death as an imposing itinerant visitor but knowing that even if I'm dying, until I actually die, I am still living. When Breath Becomes Air, pg 149-150

Now, I want to hear your thoughts! Head over to Morgan's page to see what the thought of the book (and to check out her adorable new son!). 

Link up or comment below!

Don't forget to join us for March's book, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown! 

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