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Review: Brain on Fire

March 7, 2013

Brain on Fire

Things were going well for twenty-four year old Susannah Cahallan – she’d graduated from college, landed a job in her field of study, and had a great boyfriend – when she suddenly started acting strange.  It all began when she spotted two red dots on her arm and became convinced she’d been bitten by bedbugs, even after an exterminator found no evidence of them, and things spiraled out of control from there.  Her hand went numb, she became anxious and insecure, had periods of mania, and, finally, seizures before ending in a catatonic state.  After extensive testing, doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with her and began to believe she was suffering from a mental illness.  Her family, boyfriend, and one neurologist believed otherwise.

Since that month is lost to her, Cahallan used interviews, medical records, videos, and her father’s journal to reconstruct it in her memoir, Brain on Fire.  Wow, what a story it is!!  It is fascinating and scary – I was suffering from vertigo as I read the book and became convinced it was caused by something more complicated.  Even after reading this book, it’s hard to imagine the nightmare Cahallan and her loved ones lived through.  The whole episode had to be extremely frustrating for them and it shows just how much the medical field has yet to learn.

I enjoyed Brain on Fire and, for the most part, found it compelling.  There were a few times when I thought it got a little bogged down with medical jargon, but I think that was a necessary evil.   Cahallan did a great job telling a story she can’t remember.  If you enjoy memoirs, medical mysteries, or know someone suffering from something similar, you’ll want to pick this book up.

Review copy provided by Free Press.  I am an Indiebound Affliate.
32 Comments leave one →
  1. March 7, 2013 5:41 am

    Sounds scary – but I too enjoy reading about medical mysteries like this!

  2. March 7, 2013 6:42 am

    This sounds like the type of true story I’d like as well.

  3. sandynawrot permalink
    March 7, 2013 6:56 am

    This one is on my radar…

  4. March 7, 2013 7:11 am

    I’d like this as well.

  5. March 7, 2013 7:17 am

    Since I’ve been dealing with a daughter in college who has had insomnia, hives, and other stress and anxiety related symptoms, I think I’ll stay away from anything like this!

  6. March 7, 2013 8:23 am

    Hrm, I hadn’t heard of this book before but I really love medical mysteries so this sounds good to me!

  7. March 7, 2013 8:48 am

    I’ve seen this title and was wondering about it. Might be too intense for me…….but I might give it a try. Thanks for the review.

  8. March 7, 2013 9:02 am

    I can’t even wrap my brain around all this. Sounds like an interesting read, for sure.

  9. March 7, 2013 9:45 am

    Sounds interesting. And I’d probably like at that medical jargon.

  10. zibilee permalink
    March 7, 2013 10:12 am

    This is one that I have been meaning to read, and have here on my shelf, but haven’t gotten to yet. It does indeed sound frightening, and like something that would scare the pants off of me, but finding out that there is truth behind all this madness would goad me on to read this like you can’t imagine!

  11. March 7, 2013 10:20 am

    I love stories like this and medical jargon doesn’t put me off because I was a medical transcriptionist for years. Must read.

  12. March 7, 2013 10:25 am

    I picked up a copy of this book at NEIBA last fall, and I really need to make time for it. I loaned it to a friend and she was captivated. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kathy.

  13. trish422 permalink
    March 7, 2013 11:44 am

    This sounds absolutely fascinating, and quite a bit scary.

  14. March 7, 2013 11:58 am

    I think I would love this one. I like medical mysteries and compelling memoirs.

  15. March 7, 2013 1:08 pm

    This sounds fascinating, thanks! for sharing.

  16. March 7, 2013 1:46 pm

    Wow, this sounds intense but definitely a worthwhile read.

  17. March 7, 2013 1:54 pm

    This sounds like a fascinating and scary story. One thing thta would make it a little easier for me to read is that Callahan wrote the book so, at least, she’s doing much better now.
    Great review, Kathy. I’m going to look into this book more!

  18. March 7, 2013 2:09 pm

    I’m with Amy. This sounds like such a fascinating and yet frightening story.

  19. March 7, 2013 4:09 pm

    This sounds both fascinating and scary! I do like medical mysteries – will have to keep my eye out for this one.

  20. Patty permalink
    March 7, 2013 5:21 pm

    I would have an out of control imagination and think I had what she had…

  21. bookingmama permalink
    March 7, 2013 5:45 pm

    This book was fascinating… and very scary!

  22. March 7, 2013 7:20 pm

    I just started this one so I just skimmed your review. But I am finding the book very compelling!

  23. March 8, 2013 1:03 am

    Wow! Is this one of those unsolved medical mysteries? It sounds dizzying!

  24. March 8, 2013 7:13 am

    I thought this was soooooo scary — because it was true. What if they had stopped looking for answers?

  25. March 8, 2013 1:54 pm

    Did they actually go into what it was she had? Was it mental illness after all?

  26. March 8, 2013 6:39 pm

    I’m so glad that you liked this. I enjoyed this one tremendously.

  27. March 9, 2013 3:18 am

    You’ve made me really curious about this one!

  28. March 9, 2013 8:27 pm

    Yikes! Stories like this always give me the itchies. There’s nothing like mysterious illnesses to make you focus on every little ache and pain.

  29. March 10, 2013 5:16 pm

    I think this book sounds fascinating and have had it on my TBR list since I first saw it. So glad it was a worthy read.

  30. March 10, 2013 11:24 pm

    I think this would totally freak me out. I always become convinced I have some illness when I read stories like this.

  31. March 11, 2013 6:43 pm

    Medical mysteries always fascinate me!!! This one sounds good.

  32. March 16, 2013 8:57 pm

    This kind of stuff always interests me .. and gives me new things to worry about.

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