Falling Into the Fire by Christine Montross
A Psychiatrist's Encounters with the Mind in Crisis

68%

5 Critic Reviews

There are no straightforward answers in this book, and no neat happy endings. Montross readily acknowledges that psychiatry is an imprecise science...But the book's great achievement is to make us understand that these people on their locked wards are not freaks or monstrosities, to be gawped at like the inmates of the Bedlam.
-Guardian

Synopsis

Falling Into the Fire is psychiatrist Christine Montross’s thoughtful investigation of the gripping patient encounters that have challenged and deepened her practice. The majority of the patients Montross treats in Falling Into the Fire are seen in the locked inpatient wards of a psychiatric hospital; all are in moments of profound crisis. We meet a young woman who habitually commits self-injury, having ingested light bulbs, a box of nails, and a steak knife, among other objects. Her repeated visits to the hospital incite the frustration of the staff, leading Montross to examine how emotion can interfere with proper care. A recent college graduate, dressed in a tunic and declaring that love emanates from everything around him, is brought to the ER by his concerned girlfriend. Is it ecstasy or psychosis? What legal ability do doctors have to hospitalize—and sometimes medicate—a patient against his will? A new mother is admitted with incessant visions of harming her child. Is she psychotic and a danger or does she suffer from obsessive thoughts? Her course of treatment—and her child’s future—depends upon whether she receives the correct diagnosis.

Each case study presents its own line of inquiry, leading Montross to seek relevant psychiatric knowledge from diverse sources. A doctor of uncommon curiosity and compassion, Montross discovers lessons in medieval dancing plagues, in leading forensic and neurological research, and in moments from her own life. Beautifully written, deeply felt, Falling Into the Fire brings us inside the doctor’s mind, illuminating the grave human costs of mental illness as well as the challenges of diagnosis and treatment.

Throughout, Montross confronts the larger question of psychiatry: What is to be done when a patient’s experiences cannot be accounted for, or helped, by what contemporary medicine knows about the brain? When all else fails, Montross finds, what remains is the capacity to abide, to sit with the desperate in their darkest moments. At once rigorous and meditative, Falling Into the Fire is an intimate portrait of psychiatry, allowing the reader to witness the humanity of the practice and the enduring mysteries of the mind
 

About Christine Montross

See more books from this Author
Dr. Christine Montross is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, and Co-director of the Medical Humanities and Bioethics Scholarly Concentration at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.  Dr. Montross’s previous book, Body of Work, was named an Editors' Choice by The New York Times and one of The Washington Post's best nonfiction books of 2007. She and her partner, the playwright Deborah Salem Smith, live in Rhode Island with their two young children.
 
Published August 1, 2013 by Penguin Books. 257 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Falling Into the Fire
All: 5 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 2

Kirkus

Above average
on Apr 08 2013

No triumphs of modern psychiatry on display here, but rather a sympathetic portrait of seriously ill patients...

Read Full Review of Falling Into the Fire: A Psyc... | See more reviews from Kirkus

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Stephanie Merritt on Mar 09 2014

There are no straightforward answers in this book, and no neat happy endings. Montross readily acknowledges that psychiatry is an imprecise science...But the book's great achievement is to make us understand that these people on their locked wards are not freaks or monstrosities, to be gawped at like the inmates of the Bedlam.

Read Full Review of Falling Into the Fire: A Psyc... | See more reviews from Guardian

Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Apr 15 2013

...her intriguing analysis is anchored by the humble and empathetic voice of a psychiatrist working in a field wherein “every diagnosis is an act of faith.”

Read Full Review of Falling Into the Fire: A Psyc... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by Phyllis Hanlon on Jul 22 2013

Well written and quite readable, the story takes readers into the life of a psychiatrist and all the positive, frightening, and downright disturbing events that take place in a single day.

Read Full Review of Falling Into the Fire: A Psyc... | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by Meehan Crist on Jul 26 2013

Each chapter begins with an encounter between Montross and a patient, then launches into an investigation of medicine and history...Montross seamlessly weaves together history, reportage and memoir while reflecting on the difficult questions that arise as she digs into psychiatry's past and interviews experts from its present.

Read Full Review of Falling Into the Fire: A Psyc... | See more reviews from LA Times

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Vish 5 Sep 2013

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