Brain on Fire Book Review

Alexis McCammon

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Brain on Fire, a memoir by Susannah Cahalan, follows a woman in search for answers. This medical mystery begins with a woman gaining consciousness in a hospital room; she was tied down in a straitjacket and unsure of what happened. Readers soon learn that surprisingly, just weeks before, Cahalan was working as a successful New York Post reporter with a stable relationship. She was seemingly healthy and happy. How did she get to this point in such a short time?

Questions flooded her and her family’s minds. Why is she sick? Will she ever be healthy again? Where has our Susannah gone? Like the reporter she was, Cahalan continuously looked for not only a remedy for her complex illness, but a key to her even more complex mind. Even doctors were baffled by her condition, unable to either identify it or treat it. Uncertainty and helplessness plagued the Cahalans- until it didn’t.

Because Cahalan was only able to remember brief moments of the months of her sickness, the fact that her story is told at all is nothing short of amazing. Like much of her recovery, Cahalan’s memoir is a group effort- a result of a compilation of interviews with medical staff, family, and friend. Brain on Fire is a riveting tale that takes readers on the journey with Cahalan as she finds herself, discovers her family’s unconditional love, and receives a diagnosis that saves her life.