Book Review: When Breath Becomes Air

This novel is about a neurosurgeon who is in his last year of residency when he finds out that he has stage four lung cancer. The novel is written by Paul Kalanithi, the neurosurgeon. It is an intense, realistic story that pulls in readers to understand, to a certain extent, how it would feel to be at the end of your long awaited secondary education and suddenly be given a small length of time to live. This novel has emotional ups and downs and definitely makes the reader empathise and understand how the author is feeling throughout the cancer process.

The author, Paul Kalanithi had to suddenly stop planning for the future and begin living for the days and often moments. His life until that point was him being a Doctor and helping his patients in dealing with their issues and recovery, but suddenly the roles are reversed. At first Paul believes that he had understood what patients went through but eventually he realises how hard it is to be a patient and all of the feelings and changes that come with being diagnosed with wide spread cancer.

This novel emphasises the concept that even if your life is completely mapped out and you’re heading down that path, that doesn’t mean it will actually happen the way that you planned for it. Whether that be sickness, or just a change of events, no matter what you should find what makes you happy and learn to be grateful for all of the amazing things that you do have in your life.

One of the biggest learnings that I got from this book was to be grateful for what you have in the present. This would include relationships, health, happiness, etc. We often get so caught up in what we don’t have, what others have or what we want in the future that we forget to be grateful for all of the amazing people, experiences and things that we do have. Life is about so much more than materialistic things. It’s about finding your passion and living for it. It’s about loving your family and friends with all of your heart and soul. It’s about whatever else lights a fire within you and makes you happy.

As humans, we have this idea that bad things happen to people that they will never happen to us. We can acknowledge the statistics but still believe that we won’t be a part of them. Scientifically this is known as the Optimism Bias.

One thing that Paul had always wanted to do was write a book. After he found out he was sick he finally had the time and motivation to start writing. Although it is clear in the novel that is was not easy to write, it was written with passion, purpose and to pass on a piece of Pauls legacy. Through his words, he has helped many people to step in his shoes for a brief time and get a little insight as to what it would be like to have been him.

This novel is definitely worth reading to help bring some perspective to your life and remind you of how lucky you truly are. When was the last time that you stopped to appreciate everyone in your life? If it’s been a while, maybe you should consider letting them know.

By: Cortnie Dawn

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