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Publisher's Summary

In 2009, Susannah Cahalan woke up in a strange hospital room strapped to a bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. Her medical records - from a month-long hospital stay of which she had no memory - reported 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.

Susannah’s 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. Weeks ticked by and Susannah moved inexplicably from violence to catatonia. Over one million dollars worth of blood tests and brain scans revealed nothing. The exhausted doctors were ready to commit her to the psychiatric ward, until the celebrated neurologist, Dr. Souhel Najjar, joined her team. With the use of a simple - yet ingenious - test, he was able to make a lifesaving diagnosis - revealing a newly discovered autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the brain.

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.

©2012 Original material © 2012 Susannah Cahalan. Recorded by arrangement with Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. (P)2012 (p) 2012 HighBridge Company

Critic Reviews

"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, MD, Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Surgery, New York Presbyterian-Columbia Medical Center)
"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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  • mollymel
  • SF, CA, United States
  • 09-23-17

fascinating story

I really enjoyed hearing the authors tale of illness and recovery. Much of what she describes is scary, but it's done in a heartfelt and honest way that draws you in close. You're fighting for her to make it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Good story, awkward ending

I really enjoyed the story, which is a very recent account of a woman gone mad.

The problem with it being so recent is that it is not really neatly tied up at the end. I felt that the author could have used the story to make a stronger argument, but she instead just raised a number of questions. I would have liked more lessons that she learned or implications to be elaborated on. I felt that it was a good story but lacked a takeaway.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Chilling account right from the start

What made the experience of listening to Brain on Fire the most enjoyable?

The story was most compelling because it was told by Susannah from what she remembered and from what others told her in bits and pieces. It seems this book would hold a lot of hope for some people who know their loved ones are being misdiagnosed. That there is hope even once diagnosed. Never give up.

What did you like best about this story?

That her parents came together to care for her and her relatively new boyfriend stayed by her side.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes and I tried to but it did take me several consecutive nights to finish it.

Any additional comments?

I recommended it to my mother and she can't wait to listen to it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Great Book!!

Any additional comments?

I couldn't stop listening! Since I have friends who have been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and Schizophrenia, I was immediately drawn in and could relate to her family and friends. I was positive I knew what she would be diagnosed with.. but I was COMPLETELY wrong. You will not be disappointed.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Loved this!

What made the experience of listening to Brain on Fire the most enjoyable?

a great listen! really enjoyed the way it was read and the book itself. Very interesting

What other book might you compare Brain on Fire to and why?

not sure, but this would suit someone who enjoys learning about medical conditions/science/etc. It really is focused on what happened to her, why it happened to her, and how her and her family dealt with it

What does Heather Henderson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Really great book to listen to as there is much trauma in the author's life- and this is reflected in the voicework

Any additional comments?

LOVED IT

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Frightening

An remarkable, true story of a 24 year old woman's descent into madness for several months and how she was able to recover. Scary to think this could happen to anyone at any time.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

Gripping - Couldn't Put it Down!

Would you listen to Brain on Fire again? Why?

The reader does a fantastic job of capturing the harrowing autobiography. The author not only takes you through the details of her falling down into a sense of psychosis, but also provides you with the medical terminology and explanations of what she was going through (which makes a microbiology nerd like me very happy). I couldn't put down this book until the end. Not only was it entertaining but it was also thoroughly informative!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Amazing Medical Story

What does Heather Henderson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The narration helps to personalize the story.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes.

Any additional comments?

This was a riveting account of a mysterious onset illness and the fight for a correct diagnosis. A true story of mystery, disease, confusion, fear and victory all rolled into one. It leaves one wondering how often patients are misdiagnosed.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating

This was a fascinating story and also scary. This is something that can happen to anyone. I think about all the people that may be in mental institutions when they actually have a medical condition. The story was well written and keeps your interest while providing a lot of medical detail, but it is not over your head - it is understandable.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Riveting

Where does Brain on Fire rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Among top 20

What other book might you compare Brain on Fire to and why?

None

Have you listened to any of Heather Henderson’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Could not put this book down. An amazing story and truly terrifying

2 of 2 people found this review helpful