Wow. Horrifying and incredible. Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan is a stunning memoir of a young reporter who, suddenly and inexplicably, goes mad.
Cahalan writes her story about a month that she still can barely remember- the month when a recently discovered autoimmune diseased caused her body to attack her brain.
The book is a scary journey from the early signs of paranoia to full-blown catatonia to slow recovery. Although some of the medical parts of this story get a little dry, they only last a couple of paragraphs and are useful in giving us a more complete background for understanding the wild events that take place.
Brain on Fire is unique, both in the narrative itself and in that Cahalan is able to write her memoir with a distance from her own story that is typically difficult to find. Much of her information on that month comes from interviews, research, and videos. You get Cahalan’s perspective as both an outsider reporting on the anomaly, as well as the terrifying personal feelings of “what is happening to me??”
The fact that a good deal of others have had a similarly harrowing experience, many never diagnosed, haunts the goods news that arrives in the last few chapters.
If you give this book a shot, be prepared to feel both awed and mildly disturbed at this work of nonfiction.
Why I picked it up: Read the back cover or description on Amazon. How could you not read it after that?
Why I finished it: I couldn’t stop reading it, except for brief breaks used to recapture happy thoughts, before diving back in.
Who I’d recommend it to: It really is a good, fascinating read, but Brain on Fire is not for hypochondriacs or anyone that gets freaked out easily.