Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

I strongly advocated for Brain on Fire to be selected for March in our work Book Club. My picks never win, so I was glad when this one did. I mean, the snippet is gripping:

An award-winning memoir and instant New York Times bestseller that goes far beyond its riveting medical mystery, Brain on Fire is the powerful account of one woman’s struggle to recapture her identity.

When twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, she had no memory of how she’d gotten there. Days earlier, she had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: at the beginning of her first serious relationship and a promising career at a major New York newspaper. Now she was labeled violent, psychotic, a flight risk. What happened?

In a swift and breathtaking narrative, Susannah tells the astonishing true story of her descent into madness, her family’s inspiring faith in her, and the lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn’t happen. “A fascinating look at the disease that . . . could have cost this vibrant, vital young woman her life” (People), Brain on Fire is an unforgettable exploration of memory and identity, faith and love, and a profoundly compelling tale of survival and perseverance that is destined to become a classic.

Honestly, this is everything I love in a book, especially a memoir. Abnormal Psychology was one of my favorite classes in college. If I was more dedicated to school and got additional degrees, I probably would have proceeded with something psychologically oriented.

brain on fire

Initial Thoughts

This book was raw. How terrified would you be if there was a month of your life that you just didn’t remember? You lost basic functions like walking and speaking. You could feel yourself changing, but not know why. Susannah had MULTIPLE doctors give up on figuring out what was wrong. Weeks went by with no explanation as to the seizures, body ticket, or degradation she was experiencing.

This could happen to anyone! Honestly, other than a “memoir”, you could categorize this in the horror section. Susannah writes honestly and quite descriptive. I’m not going to lie…I did skip a few paragraphs when she was talking about the more medical parts of her neurological stay.

Would I recommend it?

I have a list of friends that I always like to share book recommendations with. While I loved this book for everything that it was, this is not on the list of “OMG, you have to read this.”. My friends tend to like less-real books, and more fiction (which is totally fine! I love fiction too). I’m curious to see what Book Club thinks! We don’t meet until this afternoon.

All in, if you’re looking to relate to a person and read some really raw and revealing content, grab Brain on Fire. I had tears in my eyes during some parts, and felt my heart hurt at others. It also made me think a bit more than other books do, which I enjoyed. They actually turned this into a movie in 2016 with Chloe Grace Moretz as Susannah. I’ll have to go hunt that down.

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One Reply to “Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan”

  1. I read this years ago! Quick read, but it definitely wasn’t one that I recommended.

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