Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Brain on Fire

Brain on Fire
by Susannah Cahalan

Genre:  Nonfiction/Memoir
Pages:   288
Published:  11/13/12 by Simon and Schuster
Format:  ebook

My Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Brain on Fire is a medical memoir written by New York Post reporter Susannah Cahalan. Several years ago, Cahalan suffered from an autoimmune disease that caused psychotic episodes, complete breaks from reality, severe physical impairments, and sickness that nearly took her life. All physical tests came back negative, and her disease was misdiagnosed as a mental illness, until finally a doctor put the pieces together and discovered that an infection in her brain was reeking havoc on both her body and mind.

Fascinating stuff in this book! Just the idea that a perfectly healthy and successful woman could so quickly morph into someone else completely, with no warning and no explanation...aaugh, so scary! Cahalan does a good job piecing together the story of her medical mystery. She had to do a lot of research to tell her own story, as she does not remember much of what happened to her. I thought the narrative was a little awkward at times, with Cahalan telling the story in first person but then it switched to more of a third person voice at times to tell the perspectives of other people. Sometimes there wasn't much transition between these shifts, and I thought it was not quite right, but overall it didn't really detract from the story.

The most intriguing part of Cahalan's story (which also seemed to be most intriguing to Cahalan as well) is how many people both past and present could possibly have had this disease but were misdiagnosed. People who have spent their lives in nursing homes and psychiatric wards unnecessarily because the medical community was not able to put the pieces together. There is no way to know how many people would fall into this category, but quite possibly it could be a large number. There is still much to be learned about this relatively new disease, but Cahalan's book serves as a great tool for raising awareness.

I would highly recommend this intriguing real life story!

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