Book Review: Susannah Cahalan’s Brain on Fire

Not an easy read, but a good read.

Not an easy read, but a good read. It will soon be a movie starring Dakota Fanning,

Susannah Cahalan’s Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness is an addictive book that tells the story of Cahalan’s nightmarish medical mystery that attacked her brain and struck her with madness for weeks before being properly diagnosed as a rare autoimmune disorder. Cahalan, a New York Post journalist, was 24 years old at the time she began suffering from seizures that soon resulted in violent, paranoid and erratic outbursts. She was a driven, articulate, interesting and beautiful daughter, girlfriend and writer that woke up to find herself hospitalized for a month, surrounded by the best doctors in the world stumped by what was happening to her brain. Cahalan chronicles her insanity and her loved ones struggles to find out what depleted their intelligent Susannah into a catatonic, sometimes manic patient left without words and barely able to walk.

At first, there’s just darkness and silence.

“Are my eyes open? Hello?”

I can’t tell if I’m moving my mouth or if there’s even anyone to ask. It’s too dark to see. I blink once, twice, three times. There is a dull foreboding in the pit of my stomach. That, I recognize. My thoughts translate only slowly into language, as if emerging from a pot of molasses. Word by word the questions come: Where am I? Why does my scalp itch? Where is everyone? Then the world around me comes gradually into view, beginning as a pinhole, its diameter steadily expanding. Objects emerge from the murk and sharpen into focus.

I know immediately that I need to get out of here.


Cahalan lives to tell her story and her sheer strength as a journalist is evident as she investigates each doctor, every false diagnosis and reviews taped footage of her hospital stay. She interviews family members, nurses and doctors while providing a thorough understanding of the brain and its intricacies. There is not an ounce of vanity in Brain on Fire, Cahalan opens her life and her brain for all to see.