Life on a Knife’s Edge

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What to expect

‘Wonderous and wild. I loved this book’ James Nestor, bestselling author of Breath

‘Moving, raw and unflinching’ Julia Samuel, bestselling author of This Too Shall Pass


How do you carry on when things go deadly wrong?

When Dr Rahul Jandial operated on Karina, an eleven-year-old girl whose spinal cord was splitting in two, he had to make an impossible decision. He followed his head over his gut and Karina was left permanently paralysed, altering both patient and surgeon’s lives for ever. This decision would haunt Rahul for decades, a constant reminder of the fine line between saving and damaging a life.

As one of the world’s leading brain surgeons, Rahul is the last hope for patients with extreme forms of cancer. In treating them, he has observed humanity at its most raw and most robust. He has journeyed to unimaginable extremes with them, guiding them through the darkest moments of their lives.

Life on a Knife’s Edge is Rahul’s beautifully written account of the resilience, courage and belief he has witnessed in his patients, and the lessons about human nature he has learned from them. It is about the impossible choices he has to make, and the fateful consequences he is forced to live with.

From challenging the ethics of surgical practices, to helping a patient with locked-in syndrome communicate her dying wish to her family, Rahul shares his extraordinary experiences, revealing the depths of a surgeon’s psyche that is continuously pushed to its limits.

Critics Review

  • A beautifully written and fearless depiction of both brain surgery and the mind of a surgeon. Riveting.

    Jim Down, author of Life Support
  • A reminder that what makes us stellar physicians and surgeons are not our skills with our hands and/our knowledge but rather our empathy and ability to connect with our patients.

    Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa
  • Is this a memoir or a science book? An exposé of the shortcoming of our healthcare system or a paean to the wonders of modern medicine? The answer is YES, to all those things and more. Jandial takes us deep into the day-to-day life of his profession as a brain surgeon while simultaneously taking us even deeper into the inner-workings of our own biology. It’s an unconventional approach, and a bit disarming at first blush, but pays off in spades. I loved this book.

    James Nestor, New York Times bestselling author of Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
  • Most of us say ‘it’s not brain surgery’ when we talk about our work. But Rahul Jandial’s work – and life – is just that. And he loves both enough to fight for every moment of every life. A searingly honest, fascinating account of lives and minds entwined.

    Stevie Spring CBE, Chairman of the British Council and the charity Mind
  • A powerful testimony to the skill of a world-class surgeon, and a soul-searching exploration of the vulnerability that makes him human.

    Leah Hazard, author of the Sunday Times bestseller Hard Pushed
  • Incredible storytelling

    Dr Rangan Chatterjee

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