Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness Book Review

Title: Brain on Fire
By: Susannah Cahalan
Publisher: Free Press
Publication Date: November 13, 2012
Pages: 288

A gripping memoir and medical suspense story about a young New York Post reporter’s struggle with a rare and terrifying disease, opening a new window into the fascinating world of brain science.
One day, Susannah Cahalan woke up in a strange hospital room, strapped to her bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. Her medical records—from a month-long hospital stay of which she had no memory—showed psychosis, violence, and dangerous instability. Yet, only weeks earlier she had been a healthy, ambitious twenty-four year old, six months into her first serious relationship and a sparkling career as a cub reporter.

Susannah’s astonishing memoir chronicles the swift path of her illness and the lucky, last-minute intervention led by one of the few doctors capable of saving her life. As weeks ticked by and Susannah moved inexplicably from violence to catatonia, $1 million worth of blood tests and brain scans revealed nothing. The exhausted doctors were ready to commit her to the psychiatric ward, in effect condemning her to a lifetime of institutions, or death, until Dr. Souhel Najjar—nicknamed Dr. House—joined her team. He asked Susannah to draw one simple sketch, which became key to diagnosing her with a newly discovered autoimmune disease in which her body was attacking her brain, an illness now thought to be the cause of “demonic possessions” throughout history.

With sharp reporting drawn from hospital records, scientific research, and interviews with doctors and family, Brain on Fire is a crackling mystery and an unflinching, gripping personal story that marks the debut of an extraordinary writer.

I have to say I normally don't read memoirs, autobiographies or even biographies, I'm more of a YA book kind of girl, but when I was asked to read Brain On Fire and after looking up what it was about, I definitely was intrigued. 

From the first page of the author's notes, I was hooked. I wanted to see how this happened and the journey this young girl went through to be where she is today. This book tells you the story of a young woman, Susannah Cahalan's point of view as well as her families, doctors and others in her life, since she still can't pin point everything that happened to her. One day she starts getting symptoms that are un-explainable, like,  hallucinations, being violent, OCD, insomnia, being lethargic and it doesn't stop there. This happens to her out of nowhere and when she wakes up one day, she's in the hospital, strapped down, with no memory of what happened to her.

 I seriously couldn't put this book down. This is one that is definitely going on my list of books to share with friends and family, especially with those in my life I know who suffers with any type of mental illness. What kept me turning the pages on this book was the raw honesty and how the author doesn't sugar coat anything, she tells you from the get go that even her sources aren't reliable since she doesn't remember much from that point in her life. This book will definitely open your eyes, make you think and seriously feel for what she goes through. This was one of the best reads I've had in a long time and I'm really glad to have had the opportunity to read it.

Disclosure: All opinions are my own. I received Brain on Fire at no cost for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received.


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