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This week’s Weekly Review is “When Breath Becomes Air” By Paul Kalanithi. As written from the description of the book, “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 treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated.”
This book I listened to via Audible for Amazon because let’s face it, as a mom we don’t really have a lot of time to sit and leisurely read. I still read regular books when I can because I love the smell of books and nothing beats the feeling of being curled up with a good book and a cup of tea. However, for the majority of the time, I must sneak my “reading” in during those rare down moments when Addie is sleeping or napping. While I’m folding laundry, loading the dishwasher after dinner or taking the dog for a walk I enjoy my books on audio. I highly recommend Audible if you’re struggling to find time to read that book you’ve been hoping to find time for but just can’t.
Now, on to the review. I have to admit that I only chose this book because it was a New York Times Bestseller and I’m trying to widen my literary range. I didn’t know what to expect from it because I’d never chosen to read a book like this before. I was worried that there would be too much science speak and that I just wouldn’t connect with it. Man, was I wrong. I was immediately captivated by Sunil Malhotra’s narration and was pulled into Paul’s world. I found Paul’s recollections of the early years of his neurosurgeon residency a little tedious but aside from that, I was taken with his life and his journey.
The way he navigated his diagnosis and how it began to change his view on life and what was important to him demonstrated a strength of spirit that I don’t think I would have had if I had been in his situation. The way that Paul and his wife continued to live their lives, even deciding to have a child, despite the probability that he would not get to watch them grow conveyed a love and commitment to each other that moved me. Here is an excerpt from the book, when Paul and Lucy were trying to decide if they should have a child. “Will having a newborn distract from the time we have together?” she asked. “Don’t you think saying goodbye to your child will make your death more painful?”
“Life wasn’t about suffering.” How true is that? To me, he was saying, you can’t make decisions based on the fear of potential suffering but rather make them based on the potential for joy. To them, bringing a life into the world and being a family, even if it was only for a short time was worth the risk of suffering because, in the end, the joy they would have together would carry them through the suffering. This book is filled with eye-opening thoughts and discoveries like this one, that I couldn’t get enough of.
Paul died in March of 2015 before he finished his book and his wife contributed the final pages to this thought provoking and moving memoir of Paul’s life. Her words described a man, who even in the face of his imminent death, lived. He didn’t hold anything back, not his sadness over what he would be losing, his happiness over all that he had experienced and most importantly he didn’t lose his hope of living a good life, even if it was to be a short one.
This is another tear jerker you guys, sorry about that, I promise I don’t only read books that make you cry. This one, though, makes you realize the importance of truly living and appreciating life, in a way only death can. I highly recommend that you read “When Breath Becomes Air“, whether that’s via a good old fashioned book or via Audible, though I recommend the latter. However you get this book, just get it because it is a must read in my opinion.