• Rachel Penate

Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

Updated: Apr 10, 2020


★★★★⁣⁣ (Standard)

★★★★ ⁣⁣ (Mama Scale)


Susannah Cahalan's memoir of the month a mysterious illness turned mysterious "madness," and how it has come to define her entire life.


Ok. Straight talk. I totally watched the movie first. Funny enough, I watched a short preview on her story after starting the book and was like "hmm this sounds familiar." Come to find out I had seen the movie and didn't connect the two. Usually, I hesitate to embark on the literary journey sans video, but this one was worth it. And, here's why...

WHAT I LOVED: An experience or title or accomplishment does mean good story, BUT it doesn't always mean good writer. I've come across my share of memoirs I've only grunted through because I really love the person (i.e. Drew Barrymore, Bethany Hamilton, and Simone Biles), but Susannah's journalistic strength is definitely her biggest asset in this book. Her story wasn't just a first person re-telling, but rather really well done journalistic prose. I loved the science she included in this memoir. It was so interesting and really highlighted the entire experience of her story as her case basically wrote a medical journal. I also really appreciated the time she took to recall her journey during those dark days as well as the dark days that came after. She did such honor to the mental recuperation that occurrs post-illness. She was honest and didn't justify any poor decisions. I really appreciated that authenticity.

WHAT I DIDN'T LOVE: This was a hard topic for me. Mysterious medical illnesses that come outta nowhere freak me the heck out. It's a real-life anxiety trigger. I blame all those medical dramas I've binged. This all being said, it has nothing to do with how well she wrote her story, I'm 100% about the way she executed this book, I just think I'm going to think twice before I read another real-life story about an illness this dramatic and life-changing. So, consider that my *trigger warning* to you.

Overall, a simply fascinating and well-written story.


For sure! That is, if medical memoirs are your thing.

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