... at once poignant, surprising and sometimes horrifying ... Unraveling the mystery behind such strange occurrences requires more than neurological expertise—it needs careful handling, a deep and empathic understanding of how society and culture, experience and expectation, work in tandem with our neural pathways and bodily responses to produce physiological disorders. Dr. O’Sullivan uncovers these complex mechanisms while painting a picture of psychosomatic suffering that removes its associated stigma, and she asks us to think about illness in new ways ... Functional neurological and psychosomatic disorders are subject to fierce debate, and sufferers already raw from repeated denial of their experience are often the collateral damage. Dr. O’Sullivan wades into this conflict with extraordinary tact. What we underestimate, she tells us, is the power of the brain to disorder the body ... offers a brilliant, nuanced and thoughtful look at the lived experience of illness while asking important questions about the relationship between body and mind. Dr. O’Sullivan’s rich prose weaves a tapestry as hauntingly beautiful as it is scientifically valid ... At the heart of this tour de force is the question, deceptively simple but so difficult to answer: What do we mean by illness? Should medicine—biologically minded, diagnosis-privileging Western medicine—alone be allowed to decide?
... extraordinary ... To compare any book to a Sacks is unfair, but this one lives up to it. Not because it is alluringly freakish, but because it is so compassionate, and so driven by deep curiosity about the human psyche. I finished it feeling thrillingly unsettled, and wishing there was more.
... fascinating and provocative ... O’Sullivan’s interest in narrative is purely pragmatic. She’s no neurologist-poet in the mode of Oliver Sacks but, rather, a globe-trotting Lisa Sanders: a briskly professional but secretly tenderhearted disease detective on a mission to dispel misconceptions that have become obstacles to cures. Her reports from the field are generally not encouraging.