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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Finding Solace

Of the pledges I've made here over the last five and a half years, the one giving me the most difficulty is my memoir moratorium. My book clubs regularly pick memoirs, my reading posse is fond of recommending them, and though I've read my share of duds, there also seem to be a lot of good ones.

A publishing sensation since its release earlier this year, "When Breath Becomes Air" by Paul Kalanithi would normally have been a memoir I'd avoid, moratorium or not. But Kalanithi's clear-eyed telling of his losing battle with Stage IV lung cancer was not at all what I expected. Except when reading his final paragraph - which I did not know was the end of the author's own contributions - I did not cry reading his brief book. I suspect Kalanithi would have been pleased - his supple prose never aims at cheap sentiment. As his wife Lucy says in her moving epilogue - "What happened to Paul was a tragedy, but he was not tragic."

I hesitate recommending this book knowing many of you have lost people you love to cancer. Though I share that experience, I found a small measure of solace in Kalanithi's story; perhaps you will as well.

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