Synopses & Reviews
One day, Susannah Cahalan woke up in a strange hospital room, strapped to her bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. Her medical records—from a month-long hospital stay of which she had no memory—showed psychosis, violence, and dangerous instability. Yet, only weeks earlier she had been a healthy, ambitious twenty-four-year-old, six months into her first serious relationship and a sparkling career as a cub reporter.
Susannahs astonishing memoir chronicles the swift path of her illness and the lucky, last-minute intervention led by one of the few doctors capable of saving her life. As weeks ticked by and Susannah moved inexplicably from violence to catatonia, $1 million worth of blood tests and brain scans revealed nothing. The exhausted doctors were ready to commit her to the psychiatric ward, in effect condemning her to a lifetime of institutions, or death, until Dr. Souhel Najjar—nicknamed Dr. House—joined her team. He asked Susannah to draw one simple sketch, which became key to diagnosing her with a newly discovered autoimmune disease in which her body was attacking her brain, an illness now thought to be the cause of “demonic possessions” throughout history.
With sharp reporting drawn from hospital records, scientific research, and interviews with doctors and family, Brain on Fire is a crackling mystery and an unflinching, gripping personal story that marks the debut of an extraordinary writer.
“Engrossing. . . . Unquestionably, an important book on both a human and a medical level. Cahalan’s elegantly-written memoir of her dramatic descent into madness opens up discussion of the cutting-edge neuroscience behind a disease that may affect thousands of people around the world, and it offers powerful insight into the subjective workings of our minds.”
—Mehmet Oz, M.D., Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Surgery, New York Presbyterian-Columbia Medical Center Mehmet Oz, M.D.
“Brain on Fire reads like a scientific thriller, but with a profound and moving philosophy at its heart.”
—David B. Agus, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Engineering, University of Southern California, and author of The End of Illness David B. Angus, M.D.
“A fast-paced and well-researched trek through a medical mystery to a hard-won recovery.”
“Echoing the blend of memoir and journalism, narrator Heather Henderson modulates the storys shifting emotional undercurrent with her careful use of tone and pacing. . . . Hendersons voice is crisp, clear, and remarkably unfazed by the . . . medical terminology.”
“A remarkably well-written and well-read account.”
A New York Times bestseller! A gripping memoir and medical suspense story about a young New York Post reporter's struggle with a rare and terrifying disease, opening a new window into the fascinating world of brain science.
About the Author
SUSANNAH CAHALAN is a news reporter at the New York Post
whose award-winning work has also been featured in The New York Times
. She lives in Jersey City, New Jersey.
HEATHER HENDERSON has brought her authentic, resonant voice and a full cast of characters (from a Scots nanny to a Fargo housewife) to hundreds of projects during her 20-year career. She earned her doctorate at the Yale School of Drama, and her credits include production dramaturgy on the world premiere of August Wilson’s Fences. She has published arts features and reviews in newspapers across the U.S. and has won awards for poetry and screenwriting. What seems to impress people most, though, is that she was an extra in Animal House.