An incredible achievement for someone ravaged by grief, pain, illness, and loneliness; Kalanithi manages to leave us with a cautionary tale against taking life for granted; against cookie-cutter, quickie medicine; and against physician burnout (seen in his own resident doctor).
A neurosurgeon is such a unique personality. When two millimeters mean a miracle or malpractice, you don’t express your depth with passionate phrases and laying your soul bare. You do so in the careful, measured tones of someone who knows how to tell someone her 2-year-old didn’t survive.
Yes, the literary references are too frequent and too jarring; they read like someone trying to show off how much the read, sometimes. The five stars are because most people can’t write like this while in perfect health.
Not everyone is Elizabeth Gilbert. There is more than one kind of memorist.