I stumbled upon the book Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan and thought it looked interesting. Wow, was I wrong! It was mesmerizing. It locked me in from start to finish.

It is the incredible story of a New York Post writer who was suddenly stricken by madness and a host of physical effects of an unidentifiable illness. Throughout, Cahalan, her father, mother and boyfriend struggled to understand how this normal young woman transformed to what appeared to be schizophrenic stroke victim. Cahalan tells the story from the first-person perspective thanks to extensive journals kept by herself, friends and family. In addition, she narrates the hospital room surveillance videos in order to learn large portions of her memory that was wiped clean during the ordeal.

The book chronicles the confusion, frustration and fear as doctors continually misdiagnosed, handed her case off to others while the family and Susannah continued to fight for understanding, resolution and treatment.

It is a cautionary tale about just how fragile the worlds inside our head are and how quickly we can change. It is an inspirational tale of family and friends that wouldn’t just shrug and accept the answers given by a host of well-meaning doctors.  It will make you shudder. It will make you tear up. It will make you believe. I really liked this book although just writing about it makes me relive some of the scarier moments and because of that I won’t be rereading it anytime soon.

by Chris Doelle

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