Bookforum – Review of Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

Near the end of Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar, Esther Greenwood recalls how her mother, mortified by Esther’s recent stay at an asylum, recommended they simply carry on as if nothing—the fits, the hallucinations, the suicide attempt—had ever happened. “Maybe forgetfulness, like a kind of snow, should numb and cover them,” Esther thinks. “But they were part of me. They were my landscape.”

Unlike Esther, New York Post reporter Susannah Cahalan says she remembers almost nothing of her terrifying brush with madness, but she’s no less haunted by it. Using evidence gathered from interviews, medical records, journals, and hospital video cameras, she delivers an intense, mesmerizing account of survival in her new book, Brain on Fire.

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