Thursday, January 28, 2016

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

Brain on Fire is a pretty intense dive into Susannah Cahalan's personal trip to hell and back.  Sometimes it was hard to believe what I was reading was non-fiction and not just a really good medical thriller.  

Susannah was a healthy 24 year old, living in New York City in a tiny apartment, dating a great guy, and working as a journalist at the New York Post.  It was Spring, 2009 when Susannah started to feel a bit odd.  A bad headache, difficulty concentrating at work, and the concern of parents and friends sent her to doctors.  Diagnoses ranging from mono, to "being too stressed to live on her own", to yes, even schizophrenia kept coming.  All blood tests, MRI's, and other tests all kept coming back normal.  And Susannah's health kept deteriorating...

Needless to say, this book is about Susannah's journey into a mysterious illness that had only been discovered in 2007, two years before she somehow fell victim to it. The clock was ticking--would Susannah's doctors find a cure before it was too late?  

This all takes place over a month, and it's pretty intense. In order to write about her experience, Susannah spent time reading her father's journal, going over doctor reports and notes, and piecing together her lost month, when everyone thought she was going mad.  She doesn't remember much of it at all, just a few flashes of moments that continue to haunt her today.  This is a book about parents who did not give up on their child, and insisted on finding the cause of her illness.  It is the story of a woman who fights her way back from literally the brink of death.  It is about the journey after the illness, back to the real Susannah.  Could the real Susannah be found? 

I'm leaving out a lot on this review, because I want you to read this book.  It's a thriller, a medical mystery, and most importantly, a story of overcoming the odds, and simply being lucky and in the right place in the right time.

There are plenty of tv interviews and clips of Susannah on YouTube that you can check out if you'd like to hear her story.  

Available in paperback, audio, and e-book.

Rating:  7/10 for medical thriller that is all the more chilling because it is real.  

1 comment :

  1. Your review verifies the intensity of the book. Two years ago I had a medical emergency from which I recovered, nothing this bad, but scary enough. I am not ready to read Brain on Fire but glad to know it was well done.