A PEN / E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award Finalist
A real-life neurological mystery and captivating story of reinvention by the New York Times bestselling author of The Daring Book for Girls.
Andrea Buchanan lost her mind while crossing the street one blustery March morning. The cold winter air triggered a coughing fit, and she began to choke. She was choking on a lot that day. A sick child. A pending divorce. The guilt of failing as a partner and as a mother. When the coughing finally stopped, she thought it was over. She could not have been more wrong.
When she coughed that morning, a small tear ripped through her dura mater, the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord. But she didn’t know that yet. Instead, Andrea went on with her day, unaware that her cerebrospinal fluid was already beginning to leak out of that tiny opening.
What followed was nine months of pain and confusion as her brain, no longer cushioned by a healthy waterbed of fluid, sank in her skull. At a time in her life when she needed to be as clear-thinking as possible?as a writer, as a mother, as a woman attempting to strike out on her own after two decades of marriage?she was plagued by cognitive impairment and constant pain, trapped by her own brain—all while mystifying doctors and pushing the limits of medical understanding.
In this luminous and moving narrative, Andrea reveals the astonishing story of this tumultuous year—her fraught search for treatment; how patients, especially women, fight to be seen as reliable narrators of their own experiences; and how her life-altering recovery process affected both her and her family.
The mind-brain connection is one of the greatest mysteries of the human condition. In some folklore, the cerebrospinal fluid around the brain is thought to be the place where consciousness actually begins. Here, in the pages of The Beginning of Everything, Andrea seeks to understand: Where was “I” when I wasn’t there?
About the Author
Andrea J. Buchanan is a New York Times bestselling author of Gift, The Daring Book for Girls, and Mother Shock. She lives with her family in Philadelphia.
Buchanan chronicles a year of physical and mental anguish in this disturbing memoir of an enigmatic illness. Buchanan is uncannily adept at describing pain and charting the snail’s pace of recovery; a former classical pianist, she takes up playing again, her practice becoming a brain-training method. Readers will be fascinated by this introspective medical journey and heartened by the simultaneous healing of a family.
Andrea J. Buchanan’s The Beginning of Everything explores the abrupt derailment of her ability to function and to think, due to an under-diagnosed disorder that can happen to anyone. The story of her difficult journey through diagnosis and treatment, and her inspiring self-designed rehab, is compelling for patients, caregivers, and readers alike.
— Connie Deline, MD, Spinal CSF Leak Foundation
Andrea J. Buchanan writes of being an unreliable narrator, but you will trust her with your life as she guides you through her perilous journey and shares her stunning meditations on mind and self and pain and time. The Beginning of Everything is truly ‘music emanating from a broken place,’ a breathtaking, life-affirming, gorgeously composed marvel.
— Gayle Brandeis, author of The Art of Misdiagnosis and The Book of Dead Birds
“ I found The Beginning of Everything to be unputdownable, emotionally gripping, and devastatingly honest. It plunged me into the shock and aloneness of this sudden capsizing of a life, and the agony and confusion that followed; but ultimately it delivered me to a new understanding of body and mind and new hope. I felt deep sympathy throughout, and almost joyful relief at the end.
— Rachel Simon, author of The Story of Beautiful Girl
Buchanan documents the anxiety and thrill of new motherhood in a way that’s as entertaining as it is brave.
Buchanan writes in a graceful, down-to-earth style.
Potently honest. Buchanan’s capacity for self-reflection paves the path for all
mothers to explore the complex feelings.