Tuesday 16 January 2018

Review: When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

Paper & Glam Book Club January 2018 Discussion Questions:

Ice breaker: Do you have a 2018 reading goal?
Yes! I am aiming to read at least 12 books this year. Hopefully I can incorporate all of the P&G book club picks into this goal plus my personal book choices.

1. What was your experience reading 'When Breath Becomes Air'? Star rating?
This was a very quick read for me. It was something I read consistently on the bus to and from work and during break times when I could. It was eye-opening, moving, and just - grounding. I got an insight into just how busy life is in the medical field and the commitment from doctors makes you realise how silly it is whenever we complain that we have been waiting long for our appointments and that our doctors just don't 'get' us or they're just after the money. I think that when you're a doctor, the line between personal life and career is blurred. They deserve much more than we give them credit for. I also have a greater appreciation for the staff non-directly involved in the diagnosis and treatment - the lab staff (such as myself!) who work behind the scenes to ensure lab tests are reported on time so that management of diseases can occur then and there. And of course, the rest of the healthcare professionals such as nurses and assistants who give aid even when they are in need of rest themselves.

Paul's illness has made me think that life is short but that is not the point - what's important is what you make of it. Despite the struggle, Paul wrote his book, shared what he knew and felt about life and death, and also started a family. I know that little Cady, even with the few moments shared with her father, is proud of him and forever will be.

I rate this book 5 out 5 stars.

2. What passages or sentences struck you as particularly profound or moving?
For much of his life, Paul wondered about death—and whether he could face it with integrity. In the end, the answer was yes. I was his wife and a witness.

3. What do you think of Paul and Lucy's decision to have a child, in the face of his illness? When Lucy asked him if he worried that having a child would make his death more painful, and Paul responded, "Wouldn't it be great if it did," how would that strike you? Do you agree that life should not be about avoiding suffering, but about creating meaning?
I think it was a wonderful decision for Paul and Lucy to have a child. Regardless of Paul's state at that time, giving Lucy the gift of motherhood was beautiful. I am sure that Lucy sees Paul in Cady every single day - she is a reminder of their love and their life together. The birth of Cady also made Paul, in his final days, happy and content and it makes me smile thinking how such a tiny baby, unaware of the world around her, can bring so much joy to someone without lifting a finger or saying a word. In my opinion Paul said those words about death being more painful because it gave him a sense of legacy - that his life and death would leave a mark in the world even after he has gone and that Cady would be an instrument of his passion for his work even if she doesn't necessarily choose the same career path.

Suffering in life is inevitable but despite this I hope we strive to create meaning the way Paul has set an example for us. Sometimes our daily routines keep us from seeing what is important in life and that's a shame. Paul allowed me to reflect on myself and to ask what it is I want to do in life and to make out of it.

4. Did you come away with any new insights into the meaning of life?
This book has made me think that circumstances in life do not necessarily get handed to us on a plate. Our choices bring about those circumstances and our hands are on the wheel. Sure, we are not always in control of where life leads us, but we have the ability to change variables such as speed, sights, and sounds if we need or want to. Speed - as in whether we want to live in the moment, or to let the days pass as quickly as possible; sights - as in whether we want to see what is before us and reflect why we are witnesses to it, or to turn a blind eye; and sounds - as in whether we want to hear words of thanks or comfort or praise, or to succumb to the noise of routine. I personally am still questioning what I am put in this earth for and I have a greater acceptance now, after reading this book, that I don't have to find the answers straight away but I am responsible and accountable to myself and to others to find the meaning for it.

5. If you loved 'When Breath Becomes Air' you'll also enjoy ___?
'The Notebook' by Nicholas Sparks. I love how the themes of selflessness and keeping to marriage vows are shared between these two books.

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