When Paul Kalanitihi’s When Breath Becomes Air came out last year, it got a lot of attention. A young neurosurgeon (with a background in literature and apparently a strong poetic writing style) diagnosed with advanced cancer writing his memoir? It promised to be a new voice, a new look at death and life from the perspective of a man who’s been walking that line his whole career and considering what constitutes a life his whole life.
And I guess that’s not wrong, it was also just proclaimed to have beautiful prose and to be a tearjerker. But I didn’t quite get that. To me, this was just solidly fine. I know I went in with pretty high expectations after hearing everyone gush about the prose, but, well, it felt more clinical/scientific than truly narrative or personal.
This was still a moving story, death and families left behind always are, but from all the reviews I really expected a bit more tears. The only section, though, that tugged a bit harder on my heart was his wife’s epilogue.