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Book Rec: Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

Updated: 5 days ago

“The brain is a monstrous, beautiful mess.”

I know I’m behind the movie release with Chloë Grace Moretz and it’s been more than a decade since Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness was published, but Susannah’s account of her brain on fire is riveting. The medical mystery around her struggle to recapture her identity is a compelling tale of survival and perseverance.

picture of Susannah Cahalan looking over the title and author

When twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, she had no memory of how she’d gotten there. Days earlier, she had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: at the beginning of her first serious relationship and a promising career at a major New York newspaper. Now she was labeled violent, psychotic, a flight risk. What happened?

Discussion Guide

Susannah quotes Friedrich Nietzsche, “The existence of forgetting has never been proved: we only know that some things do not come to our mind when we want them to.” How does this relate to her own tale of memory? Why do you think she choose to bookend her story with Nietzsche’s comment?

Discuss the various reactions to Susannah’s illness. Who’s is expected or unexpected?

What are some of the reasons that Susannah may have chosen to share her story with the public.

How did her family and Stephen help Susannah through the month of madness? How did their faith impact the story?

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