Virginia's Reviews

Brain on Fire – My Month of Madness Review

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

This book was loaned to me as a recommended read, “It’s great story. I know you’ll like it,” my friend said as she handed me the book. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to it right away. Recently, she asked if I had finished it. That statement catapulted me into action. I started it Sunday night finished it today. I couldn’t put it down.

I found this to be a fascinating book. I saw many similarities with my journey through schizophrenia with my child. Parts of the book were extremely difficult to read as I remembered the emotions I had as I watched my child endure many of the same symptoms. At one point when Susannah shared her perception of body image later in the story, I had to stop and have a good cry. My daughter must have some of the same feelings and it’s hard to read it in black and white.

Susannah did a fantastic job of explaining how the brain works and what happened to her when her brain broke. I couldn’t help but wonder if part of my daughter’s illness could be explained as part of an autoimmune disease. Was that what triggered it for her?

After reading this book, I felt enlightened, encouraged, and in awe of her courage to write her story. It left me with renewed hope in science as it works to unlock the mysteries of the brain. I applaud those around her for their support in the midst of complete confusion and devastation.

I’d recommend this book to those who want to learn about rare illnesses, those who want to read a good memoir, those who want to learn about how our brain functions, and last, but not least, those who want to read a book with an ending that leaves the reader filled with hope.

I’m glad I read it. My friend was right.

Virginia Pillars

Book Club Questions

Book Club Questions

1. What do you think was Virginia’s purpose in writing this memoir? Why do you think she would share her inner turmoil with readers?
2. How much did know about schizophrenia and/or mental illness before you read this book? Did you learn something new?
3. Virginia discusses her family and friends’ reactions to Amber’s illness. What can we do to support families dealing with mental illness? Can I do this? Why or why not?
4. Virginia shared their reactions to Amber’s illness. How would you react?
5. What surprised you most in the book?
6. Did any specific part of the book leave an impression on you? Share the passage and the effect it had on you.
7. What did you think about mental illness before reading this book? Did these ideas change after reading Broken Brain, Fortified Faith? Are they better or worse?
8. What can we do to help eliminate the stigma that still surrounds mental health in today’s culture?
9. Did you take away a lesson from this book? Why is this important?
10. Do you want to read more books about mental illness? Why or why not?

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