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Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness Paperback – August 6, 2013
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*Starred Review* In this fascinating memoir by a young New York Post reporter previously known for going undercover as a stripper and writing a butt-implant story headlined Rear and Present Danger, Cahalan describes how she crossed the line between sanity and insanity after an unknown pathogen invaded her body and caused an autoimmune reaction that jump-started brain inflammation, paranoia, and seizures. Her divorced parents put aside their differences and rose to the occasion, sitting by her during the month she was confined to the hospital, about which she remembers nothing. Her boyfriend stayed with her, and one wonderful doctor, noticing that she walked and talked like a late-stage Alzheimer’s patient, was determined to get to the bottom of her medical mystery. Luckily, she was insured, because her treatment cost $1 million. Cahalan expertly weaves together her own story and relevant scientific and medical information about autoimmune diseases, which are about two-thirds environmental and one-third genetic in origin. So, she writes, an external trigger, such as a sneeze or a toxic apartment, probably combined with a genetic predisposition toward developing aggressive antibodies to create her problem. A compelling health story. --Karen Springen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Captivating…Cahalan’s prose carries a sharp, unsparing tabloid punch in the tradition of Pete Hamill and Jimmy Breslin.” (New York Times Book Review)
“A fascinating look at the disease that – if not for a nick-of-time diagnosis – could have cost this vibrant, vital young woman her life.” (People magazine)
“The bizarre and confounding illness that beset the 24-year-old New York Post reporter in early 2009 so ravaged her mentally and physically that she became unrecognizable to coworkers, family, friends, and—most devastatingly—herself… She dedicates this miracle of a book to ‘those without a diagnosis’… [An] unforgettable memoir.” (Elle)
“Swift and haunting.” (Scientific American)
“This fascinating memoir by a young New York Post reporter…describes how she crossed the line between sanity and insanity…Cahalan expertly weaves together her own story and relevant scientific information…compelling.” (Booklist (starred review))
"An intense, mesmerizing account of survival. . . Cahalan's deft descriptions of her spooky hallucinations could be right out of a Poe terror tale." (BookForum)
“For the neurologist, I highly recommend this book on several grounds…First, it is a well-told story, worth reading for the suspense and the dramatic cadence of events…Second, it is a superb case study of a rare neurologic diagnosis; even experienced neurologists will find much to learn in it…Third, and most important, it gives the neurologist insight into how a patient and her family experienced a complex illness, including the terrifying symptoms, the difficult pace of medical diagnosis, and the slow recovery. This story clearly contains lessons for all of us.” (Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology)
“Focusing her journalistic toolbox on her story, Cahalan untangles the medical mystery surrounding her condition…A fast-paced and well-researched trek through a medical mystery to a hard-won recovery.” (Publishers Weekly)
"The best reporters never stop asking questions, and Cahalan is no exception...The result is a kind of anti-memoir, an out-of-body personal account of a young woman's fight to survive one of the cruelest diseases imaginable. And on every level, it's remarkable.....Cahalan is nothing if not tenacious, and she perfectly tempers her brutal honesty with compassion and something like vulnerability. It's indisputable that Cahalan is a gifted reporter, and Brain on Fire is a stunningly brave book. But even more than that, she's a naturally talented prose stylist — whip-smart but always unpretentious — and it's nearly impossible to stop reading her, even in the book's most painful passages....Brain on Fire comes from a place of intense pain and unthinkable isolation, but finds redemption in Cahalan's unflagging, defiant toughness. It's an unexpected gift of a book from one of America's most courageous young journalists." (NPR.org)
“What is most impressive about “Brain on Fire” is that Cahalan has little recollection of her month of insanity…. Thanks partially to her talent as a journalist and to the fact that her parents kept journals, Cahalan was able to recapture her month, leaving no holes in the narrative.” (The Daily Texan)
“Compelling…a New York Post reporter recounts her medical nightmare.” (Mental Floss)
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Top customer reviews
The author, Susannah Cahalan would most likely be dead, had her family not questioned the original diagnosis she received by so called medical experts. Granted, the horrific disease that she suffered from is extremely rare, but had it not been for the efforts of family and friends, the outcome would likely have been much different.
Susannah Cahalan should be applauded for writing this shocking memoir, as it will no doubt be of great service to those individuals who have the same disease, as well as to those doctors who need to be educated on its symptoms.
I have no doubt that we'll be reading more books from Cahalan in the future. She's a gifted storyteller and does an amazing job of explaining in detail the harrowing experience she encountered prior to, during, and after her diagnosis. This book is worthy of many writing awards.
If you have any interest in the brain, medicine, or just enjoy a good medical drama please read this book. Not only is it a gripping medical story, but it raises awareness of an obscure and difficult to diagnose neurological disease. We need all the help we can get to raise awareness of Autoimmune Encephalitis and reading this book is a great place to start. Thank you from the mother of an Autoimmune Encephalitis warrior
This book scared the daylights out of me.
There are so many parts of the breakdown here that read like regular parts of life.
I quickly come to a realization that this is the reason to surround ourselves with friends who know us(well). People who can constantly act as that check in life that asks "Are you okay?"
Sure we can ask ourselves that question as much as we want but it really helps to have someone around who can tell us that we are alright. Even so, it takes a true friend to not try to sugar coat things thinking that we might be having a bad day or over dramatic meltdown as opposed to an entire breakdown.
How and when do we define the line that has to be crossed before we realize that something proactive has to be done to get to the bottom of the overwhelming feeling of hopeless helplessness that's gripped us from out of nowhere?
In reading this I suddenly wondered how anyone can abuse drugs to an extent that they might experience something similar to what happened here. Yet it's so obvious that some people actually do just that, when one of the doctors makes that assumption right from the start.
This book has altered the way I look at some things. I've never really had much recollection of my life before the age of five. The few memories I have had, which or only two that I recall, are now very suspect when coming to a more full understanding of how the memory works. Not to mention the rest of the parts that I do remember and that my siblings like to suggest I've remembered incorrectly.
I look at how fragile the mind is in respect to Susannah's experience and it makes me want to wear a crash helmet everywhere I go. That won't help much though when dealing with what happened here.
Reading this has been a true eye opener.
And just for the record Susannah:
You may have changed from this experience, but what you wrote here and how it touched me says that when you wrote this you were operating at 100 percent.
Mind boggling scary with some light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone needs to read this.
Most recent customer reviews
Beautifully written, finished the book in one sitting.