Medical Memoir Meets Suspense Novel

When Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan landed on my desk  as an Advanced Reader Copy, it intrigued me.  Ten hours later, I had finished the book.  I could not put it down.

Written as a memoir, Brain on Fire reads like medical suspense novel.  The book chronicles a month of Susannah’s life – a month she can’t remember. One moment she was a healthy, happy, twenty-four-year-old New Yorker with a bright future and a new boyfriend.  The next moment, she was suffering from psychosis, violence, and catatonia. She had regressed from an adult to a child in mere days.  Brain scans and blood tests revealed nothing.  Doctors were baffled and ready to commit her to a life in the psychiatric ward. Then, a new doctor joined her team.  Dubbed Dr. House, Dr. Souhel Najjar came in and asked Susannah to perform one simple drawing.  This test was pivotal in diagnosing Susannah with a newly discovered auto-immune disorder.  This disorder is now thought to be the cause of “demonic possessions” throughout history.

Susannah Cahalan uses accounts from her family and friends, medical records, and her own muddled memories to describe her “Month of Madness.”

“Swift and haunting.” (Scientific American )

“Compelling…a New York Post reporter recounts her medical nightmare.” (Mental Floss )

Selected as a November 2012 Must Read by Oprah

*images from here.