When Breath Becomes Air By Paul Kalanithi is a brutally honest telling of a life that faces a tragic end and the emotions, up and down, that go along with it. The author works to answer questions such as What makes life worth living in the face of death?, What do you do when the future, flattens out into a perpetual present?, and finally, What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away?
Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book. He was 36 years old and had a decade of training as a neurosurgeon behind him. He had met his wife, Lucy, in medical school and they had dreams and a future planned, when all this came to a screeching halt when Paul was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Life was put into a new perspective, in which the author does a tremendous job in spelling out his emotions and the new focus on the present that he had to pursue. Previously, he was looking into the future and all that he and Lucy had planned. He was working one hundred hours a week and the strain showed up in his marriage as it did also in his health.
Dr. Kalanithi describes in tremendous detail the struggle that he and Lucy have in determining what they should do with the remaining time that Paul had. Should he go back to work?, should he spend the time writing? and should they have a baby? The book explains all the answers to these questions in detail and opens up the author and his emotions to all readers of this book.
This is a must read on understanding each one of our perspectives on life and what we consider important and what we must do in establishing our priorities.
Here is a recent video with Paul’s wife, Lucy Kalanithi on her perspective. By the way, the epilogue that Lucy Kalanithi writes, is worth the price of the book in my opinion.