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Publisher's Summary

A fascinating look at a bizarre, forgotten epidemic from the national best-selling author of The American Plague.

In 1918, a world war raged, and a lethal strain of influenza circled the globe. In the midst of all this death, a bizarre disease appeared in Europe. Eventually known as encephalitis lethargica, or sleeping sickness, it spread worldwide, leaving millions dead or locked in institutions. Then, in 1927, it disappeared as suddenly as it had arrived. Asleep, set in 1920s and '30s New York, follows a group of neurologists through hospitals and asylums as they try to solve this epidemic and treat its victims - who learned the worst fate was not dying of it, but surviving it.

©2011 Molly Caldwell Crosby (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Story

Scary, and still unsolved, medical mystery

This book about encephalitis lethargica is well researched and well written by a woman whose grandmother survived this disease, but mentally damaged. The book examines several case histories, including hers, in detail, to show the wide range of physical and behavioral symptoms that made this disease so baffling for doctors and difficult for families. Its victims, mostly young people, sickened suddenly and fell asleep, for weeks for months. Some woke eventually, some died. Some could function normally again; many suffered degrees of mental/emotional impairment; some displayed uncontrollable anger or became psychotic, suicidal, homicidal (this included small children), others remained 'frozen' like the ones Dr. Oliver Sacks found in a hospital decades after the last outbreak and wrote about in "Awakenings". During two early 20th century pandemic waves of this disease, medical researchers tried to figure out agent was causing it, how it was transmitted, how it might be cured. No luck. Was it linked to pandemic flu?
Rare, sporadic cases still occur. The author makes the point that we may be in terrible trouble if there is another pandemic flu, and another pandemic of encephalitis lethargica.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Loved it

I like how the author not only discusses the cases of encephalopathy lethargica but she discusses what is happening in history and the environment at the same time. The environment impacts us in so many ways. This is a great nonfiction book. Who knew JP Morgan's wife had this? Loved the descriptions of late 19th century early 20th century New York.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Susie
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 04-29-13

Anatomy of an Epidemic

During the Great Flu epidemic of WWI, there was an epidemic of encephalitis lethargica —or “sleeping sickness”— that left its victims permanently disabled, a plague of catatonic lethargy. Some people were comatose for years-- and it could recur at any time.

What was it?

This medical-mystery drama, by award-winning reporter Molly Caldwell Crosby, follows the doctors, scientists, and patients of the time as they tried to solve the origins of this disease.

You may remember Oliver Sacks’s "Awakenings" chronicled his work curing the sleeping sickness victim. But science has yet to find the cause of the epidemic, the "why?"

Crosby's book turns a corner in these “sleep” conversations that will have you wide awake to the most chilling prospects yet.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Would definately recommend!

Where does Asleep rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

One of the best

What other book might you compare Asleep to and why?

Rabies, ties to epidemiology

What about Christian Rummel’s performance did you like?

I thought it was fine.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Chilling

Any additional comments?

A fascinating book. Definitely worth the read time. It taught me a lot of the history of disease and started me on a journey to a fascination with epidemiology. This is one of the most interesting diseases I have ever read about and this book did a great job of break that down. The stories meandered a little bit at some point but not book is perfect and a tiny bit a patience got me through certain books. I would recommend to anyone!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • George
  • Denham Springs, Louisiana, United States
  • 03-29-14

A Fantastic and Bone Chilling Mystery

What made the experience of listening to Asleep the most enjoyable?

I can say without equivocation that Christian Rummel's performance brought this book to a brilliant life. In any audio book the story may be of the greatest interest, but if the narration is lacking, then something is lost from the beginning. Asleep is one book that has it all. We have a powerfully entertaining mystery of non-fiction - those that make you hold your hand to your mouth after an audible gasp. Asleep is difficult to bookmark because you are always anticipating what awaits beyond the next page.

Any additional comments?

Medical histories are not for everyone, but if you can put away any preconceived notions, you will walk away from this one with a new-found appreciation for the subject matter.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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A great mixture of mystery and fact

Fascinating look at a devastating illness I knew very little about. Beyond Oliver Sacks book and the movie based on the book, Awakenings, I knew nothing about the disease Encephalitis Lethargica, or sleepy sickness. After reading this book, I find it frightening that we don't know what causes it, how the epidemic started, what ended it, and that I didn't realize it still occurs today. The author did a great job of trying to explain the fascinating mysteries behind the disease, the steps that were taken to try and understand it and the devastating results it had, especially on the young. It is rare that a book keeps me up at night worrying. This one did. If you like medical mysteries, this one will fascinate you.

Christian Rummel is quickly moving up my favorite narrator list. He is great.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic book

What made the experience of listening to Asleep the most enjoyable?

The details and the fascinating history that is given

What other book might you compare Asleep to and why?

The Great Pearl

Which scene was your favorite?

Current times compared to previous history of flu

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

all of it

Any additional comments?

Great non-fiction with fascinating case history of the illness

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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great book! learned alot!

What was one of the most memorable moments of Asleep?

it was griping to listen too.. a fast listen if you will. such an interesting history, something that more people should remember!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating!

This is a fascinating and extremely well-written book about a rarely discussed disease. I would highly recommend it!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great book

It was interesting from begging to end so much great information things I had never heard about. One of the best I have listened too

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • S Het
  • 08-14-17

disappointing

I expected a case history of a patient but this was more a belated history lesson