Friday, September 26, 2014

Book Club Friday-- Brain on Fire.

GoodReads Synopsis: 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.

My Thoughts:  This was a fascinating story.  But for the ingenuity of one doctor, who knows what Susannah's fate would have been.  It's crazy to thing about how many people suffering with mental illness could actually be suffering from a physical illness instead.  The author starts out the book by saying that she's not the most trustworthy of authors because she does not remember much of the events that she's writing about.  But being the good journalist that she is, she went to other first hand sources-- her parents, her boyfriend, her doctors and other caregivers-- to interview them.  She also uses journals kept by all the same people and even herself in the early days of her illness.  Therefore, the book reads like a cross between a memoir and an investigative report.  One that I really, really enjoyed.


  1. I remember reading this as one of the first few books in my book club and it was fascinating and terrifying!

  2. This sounds really interesting! I was a psychology major, so I get fascinated by mental health and neurology anyway, like Oliver Sacks' books. But also, I was just writing about 'The Exorcist' and how it was based on a true story on my blog. I may have to read this one!

  3. What a crazy sounding story! I have to say I'm quite intrigued by this book though, and can't think of anything else like it. Thanks for discovering it and passing it along!

  4. This sounds terrifying and yet, I feel like I NEED to read it.