Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan




“Brain on Fire,” written by Susannah Cahalan and published back in 2012.  Not only is it about a girl suffering from an a rare brain disease ,in which some people die from, it tells her story is amazing and breathtaking.  She tells her story thought pathos of lighthearted and heartbreaking assertion and imagery and understatement. “Brain on Fire,” is definitely a story to read.  Cahalan portrays her struggles, and hardship during this time where she is in her early twenties, is becoming an young adult and her career is taking off in New York City.

The amount of explicit scene in this memoir is incredible well done. It even makes it more interesting because this event did really happened. One event that stood out to me is when she experienced her first out of three seizure in chapter eight, “Out of body experience,”

“I turned to him, staring past him like I was possessed. My arms suddenly whipped straight out in front of me, like a mummy, as my eyes rolled back and my body stiffened.” (Pg 40). The imagery of someone having a seizure can put people in very different emotions. I was definitely sad for awhile after reading that chapter. Another scene that was in chapter 12, “The videotape”, “Fear of this sort is not something we typically captured in photographs and videos of ourselves. But there I am, staring into the camera as if I’m looking death in the face…”  This chapter stood out to me because she was able to see the reality of what had been going to her body while she was in a state of hypnosis. It made me feel heartbroken for her because we could read what happened to her and she doesn't even know the process of what happened to her in the month that this took place. All of the imagery tried together with the event that took place are definitely a must read if you are interested into raw and emotional content with makes for an a very different and interesting read.

Besides the amount of imagery, you would need to sit down and read this story due to the amount of understatement in it. One example is in chapter 41, “Chronology”, “ She buried her face in her hands; it was the first time I had seen her cry since long before I was sick, “I’m better now Mom, don’t cry.” This is considered an understatement because she says she’s okay when she had just went through a traumatizing autoimmune disease.  One other example is in chapter twenty-six, where Dr. Najjar, the man who discovered the brain disease, anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. “Her Brain is on Fire” (Pg 134). The disease was known for inflammation the frontal hemisphere of her brain. “Her brain is on fire”, calls out to the fact that the disease is so rare and dangerous, you compare the inflammation to fire. The examples I chose were only a few of many understatements in the book and it will all tie into how the book is being portrayed of a disease that could kill her. It makes the book even more compelling.

If you were to ask me to describe this memoir, it would be “one of a kind”. This truly was expressed and written by a woman who had experienced a deadly disease and it couldn't have been more perfect than it already was. Cahalan was able to cativave her audience through pathos and rhetorical devices like imagery and understatement. After reading this, I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a good and real read of a memoir .