Wednesday, April 3, 2013
It took a neurologist named Souhel Najjar, a simple test (draw a clock, he said), and the quick cooperation of a University of Pennsylvania physician, Dr. Josep Dalmau, to finally discover what had happened to Susannah's brain—and to treat the rare autoimmune disorder that had attacked her so virulently. Many months would go by before Susannah would recover. This book, her first, maps that journey.
It is a memoir of sorts—an investigation into the author's own life assisted by medical records and the observations of those who were near through the ordeal. It's a generous book—and story—that has already helped others, and it is important for that reason. As literature, as memoir, I worried about the liberal use of dialogue that had been clearly recreated by those whom Susannah interviewed. I wished, as well, for something less strictly documentary and more (in places) transcendent.
But I honor the achievement of this narrative, the intelligence of the doctors, the kindness of Susannah's family and boyfriend, and the marvel of the brain itself. I am proud, as well, to be a University of Pennsylvania alum and adjunct. It's a school where important work gets done.
For more on the memoirs I read (and sometimes teach), please visit the Handling the Truth page.