When Breath Becomes Air
By Paul Kalanithi
Random House, 2016
When Breath Becomes Air is a memoir by a neurosurgeon which chronicles his days as he moves through the various stages lung cancer, moving closer to
his death at a young age. The story is very touching, especially that the final chapter following Paul’s death was written by his wife, Lucy. He
maintained his sense of humor, as well as his determination, even into the later stages of his illness. It was also a bit difficult to read, not
because of the subject matter, but because of the amount of medical and technical terms that Paul used throughout the book, particularly the first half.
The terminology was used in a way that felt like the reader was expected to know what was being described. That removed this reader from feeling more
empathy for the first few chapters.
Even with that high-level language, When Breath Becomes Air is a compelling account of one man’s personal journey of suffering, thoughts, hope, conflicts,
and relationships, written by someone who obviously loved the written word. Paul was very courageous to record his experiences up to his death at the age
of 37. His family was just as courageous to keep their promise to see the book through to completion & publication.
(Special thanks to Celeste Andresen at San Manuel Public Library, for this review.)