When Breath Becomes Air
Booklist Reviews 2015 November #2
Can life remain full and rewarding even while one is living under a death sentence? This is the question now-deceased neurosurgeon Kalanithi asked himself after receiving a late-stage lung cancer diagnosis. Newly married and almost ready to complete his residency, at 34 Kalanithi was faced with a momentous decision: Should he continue with a promising medical career, or fall back on his first love of writing while taking care of his health? Fortunately for the readers of this moving memoir, he decided to do both. Kalanithi describes his life-changing decision to set aside the pursuit of a doctorate in literature in favor of attending medical school and then recounts the discovery and progress of his illness, along with the inevitable upheaval in his personal life. A precious highlight here is the heartrending epilogue penned by his wife, Lucy, following Kalanithi's passing shortly after she became pregnant. This eloquent, heartfelt meditation on the choices that make life worth living, even as death looms, will prompt readers to contemplate their own values and mortality. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews Newsletter
Kalanithi had a perfect life as a neurosurgeon all planned out and waiting for him when he was diagnosed with lung cancer at age 36. The author has since died, but he left this compelling memoir as his last testament. The first part of the book describes Kalanithi's becoming a doctor; the second focuses on his battle with cancer. Both sections discuss how to live life to the fullest, how to take advantage of every moment we have. As such, this account is really more a meditation on how to live than how to die. It is hard to resist comparing this work to Leo Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilych, especially since Kalanithi trains much of his attention on accepting death as a part of living. VERDICT A wise, fulfilling, and at times difficult read. (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
PW Reviews 2015 November #1
Author and physician Kalanithi had nearly completed his residency in neurosurgery at Stanford when he was diagnosed with Stage lV lung cancer at the age of 36. Despite the stubborn progression of his disease, Kalanithi was able to write, work, and delve into a number of profound issues before the end of his life, documented here (his wife provides the epilogue). As a youth in Arizona, Kalanithi was unsure whether he wanted to pursue medicine, as his father did, or if literature and writing were his calling. This inspiring memoir makes it clear that he excelled at both. Kalanithi shares his career struggles, bringing readers into his studies at Yale (including cadaver dissection), the relentless demands of neurosurgery, and the life-and-death decisions and medical puzzles that must be solved. After he begins cancer treatment, Kalanithi strives to define his dual role as physician and patient, and he weighs in on such topics as what makes life meaningful and how one determines what is most important when little time is left. He also shares the challenges of colleagues: an oncologist who walks a tightrope between hope and honest reality; a fellow doctor who commits suicide after losing a patient; Kalanithi's wife, also a doctor, bearing witness to her husband's decline even as she gives birth to their child. This deeply moving memoir reveals how much can be achieved through service and gratitude when a life is courageously and resiliently lived. (Jan.)[Page ]. Copyright 2015 PWxyz LLC