BOOK REVIEW: Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

Book, Book Review, Review

RATING: ★★★☆☆

Author: Susannah Cahalan

Pages: 250

Published: November 13, 2012

At the age of 24 Susannah Cahalan had the seemingly perfect life, a great job as a writer for the New York Post, a wonderful boyfriend, a great apartment in the city. But it all falls apart for her when she suddenly starts to have psychotic episodes and hallucinations. When she is admitted into the hospital there begins her month journey to a diagnosis and a lifetime journey to recovery. Written by Cahalan herself, she does not remember this month in the hospital due to her illness. In order to accurately write about what happened to her she relies on her medical records, journal entries from her parents and herself, and interviews with doctors and loved ones.

Brain on Fire allows Cahalan expand on the article she wrote about her illness and time in the hospital. As interesting and scary the journey to a diagnosis was what is even more heart wrenching is her recollection during her recovery. Due to the fact that her memory of that time is present compared to her time in hospital, she is able to really explain and confess her emotions. You get her insight on not only what this illness was doing to her, but to those who were around her. As much as this book tells her journey, it’s also about her family’s journey as well.

There is a fair bit of medical jargon used in the book, but Cahalan is able to explain it in laymen terms and not make readers feel overwhelmed. This book illuminates how intricate the brain can be, and how it can get compromised in multiple different ways. Reading this book will give readers a (hopefully) greater compassion and understanding to those with a variety of brain illnesses.


“Sometimes, just when we need them, life wraps metaphors up in little bows for us. When you think all is lost, the things you need the most return unexpectedly.”

Sidenote: This memoir is being adapted into a movie staring Chloe Grace Moretz, Jenny Slate, Thomas Mann, Tyler Perry, Navid Negahban


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