REVIEW: Kalanthi inspires readers with ‘When Breath Becomes Air’


Graphic Liza Armstrong

Staff Writer Kayla Albers writes that “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi can show readers the realness of mortality.

Kayla Albers, Staff Writer

Set during and after Dr. Paul Kalanithi’s medical residency at Stanford University in 2013,  Kalanithi’s “When Breath Becomes Air” is a memoir written about his battles with lung cancer as a husband, doctor and eventual father. Kalanithi’s story builds upon the importance of time, love and a heartbreaking discovery of mortality.

The story depicts Kalanithi’s journey through medical school and the tragedy that ultimately stole his life. Kalanithi longed to become a neurosurgeon and eventually become a Chief of Surgery, despite a diagnosis of stage IV metastatic lung cancer at age 35. The memoir uses Kalanithi’s illness to emphasize the importance that time has upon a person’s life. 

The strong relationship between Kalanithi and his wife allows readers to experience the love that exists within a family despite the horrid circumstances. An emotional epilogue is written by Kalanithi’s wife Lucy, eight months after the birth of their daughter, closely followed by Kalanithi’s death. Kalanithi’s story is tough to read, but it is important due to the life lessons it teaches.   

If you are interested in stories of self acceptance, want to learn more about the importance of making an impact on other people and are prepared for an emotional rollercoaster, Kalanithi’s informational and tragic memoir is one to consider.