Brain on Fire; Susannah Cahalan

Brain On Fire book cover

Brain on Fire; Susannah Cahalan
| published November 5, 2014 |

Book review by Kristy Webster Thursday Review contributor

“We are, in the end, a sum of our parts, and when the body fails, all the virtues we hold dear go with it.” ―Susannah Cahalan, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

This extraordinary true story of twenty-four-year old New York Post journalist Susannah Cahalan at times reads more like science fiction. Susannah is a sharp, talented writer on the rise. She’s ambitious and independent and has just started her first real “adult” relationship when she begins experiencing flu like symptoms that evolve into something far more sinister, mysterious and nearly catastrophic.

What begins as emotionally debilitating mood swings, turns into something that appears like full blown psychosis, possibly schizophrenia. She accuses her father of trying to kill his wife, she becomes suspicious and paranoid towards her boyfriend, and in general acts out of character in all aspects of what was a promising life with an exponentially bright future. But when Susannah experiences her first seizure while watching television with her boyfriend, it is clear something is dangerously wrong.

When Susannah wakes up in the epilepsy wing of hospital, the real fight for her life as she knew it truly begins. Abandoned by a burnt out neurologist who is fed up with trying to diagnose her, a psychiatric wards seems inevitable. But with the support of her divorced parents, her loyal boyfriend, and a doctor with humble beginnings and a determined spirit, Susannah’s month of hospitalization yields a shocking diagnosis, one that not only saved her life, but is bound to saves the lives of countless others.

Suspenseful, emotionally charged yet beautifully written, Susannah’s story will doubtless have a powerful impact on the field of neurology and mental health alike.

Related Thursday Review articles:

The Empathy Exams: Essays; Leslie Jamison; book review by Kristy Webster; Thursday Review; November 1, 2014.

Wonder; R.J. Palacio; book review by Kristy Webster; Thursday Review; November 3, 2014.