When Breath Becomes Air is the second book I read, in which the writer is also the main character in his own journey to mortality. The first one is A Litre of Tears. Even though they have kind of the same topic, there is a huge difference amid those two.
Before going into detailed review, I would like to state that once again the reason I chose to purchase this book is merely based on its reputation. I was not much impressed with the brief summary or the genre, let alone the topic of medicine and death. However, the little question the cover arouse curiosity in me: What makes life worth living in the face of death? – a question that people would like to have the answer for but do not want to find it themselves.
I started reading this book the first time in early winter last year and had to pause in the middle because of the too advanced level of English at the time. I barely understood a sentence fully without looking up for a word/ words that I never come across and reached the peak when I literally need to google every single word in a paragraph where the writer describes how he “cut up a dead person” the first time. This time, I chose to start all over again because it has been a long time and I nearly remember anything from the last reading. I am not sure if either my English skill or reading skill has improved that I managed to finish the book within a week and without any noticeable obstacles in terms of vocabulary or grammar in prolonged sentences.
First of all, I have to say that Paul is a great person, in whatever role you consider him as – a neurosurgeon, a cancer patient, a father and a husband. My empathy and admiration increased gradually when I reach towards those last pages of the book and that moment when I finish the epilogue, I know that it will take me some days to get over the feelings and start reading a new book. It appears to me how much it takes to be a medial student, and how much more it takes to be a doctor. A good one. And Paul had totally nailed that since he was able to be a passionate student who strive for meaning of life and its connection with human being in terms of physically and psychologically, to be a surgeon who stands at the patient’s perspective also to guide them through mortality progress, etc. On top of those, he is a caring husband who always want to have a child with his loving wife and spend time with them for as long as he could. It seems to me that Paul is a person who knows himself truly, knows what he is good at and how he felt at the moment, knows what he could do and should do, and once he is determined to do it, there is no unwavering or regret because he knows it is right with his whole body and mind. As his wife said in the epilogue,
… for much of his life, Paul wondered about death – and whether he could face it with integrity. In the end, the answer was yes.
This book is another masterpiece that I would highly recommend to everyone since it is not only about Paul’s life but it is about how to live a life worth living and how you face the hardness in your life, with integrity.
P.s: There is one point in the book that I cannot agree more with Paul, which is
“Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.”