A Molecule Away from Madness by Sara Manning Peskin

Molecule (mol·e·cule) noun:

a group of atoms bonded together, representing the smallest fundamental unit of a chemical compound that can take part in a chemical reaction


Did you know the molecules that allow us to live and thrive also have the destructive power to take away what it fundamentally means to be ourselves?

When molecules in our brains misbehave, all hell breaks loose. We are no longer the person we once were. Mothers can’t recognize their children. Leaders act out in socially unacceptable ways. Adults believe they are in a fantasy land battling zombies.

Diseases of the mind are so profoundly impactful, yet we know so little.

Sara Manning Peskin takes us on a journey through medical history and personal cases to discuss the destructive powers of misbehaving molecules in the brain. Some conditions are genetic, some environmental, while a few extra unlucky patients are victims of complete chance.

Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, Kuru, autoimmune disorders, Dementia, and more are the topics of research and discussion. Individual accounts make these all-too-common diseases feel personal and tragic. But decades of research by dedicated individuals have led to some remarkable discoveries that are a cause for hope.


A Molecule Away from Madness was released earlier this year and has made quite a splash. The mixture of science, history, and personal stories has drawn in all kinds of readers. I think, too, that these brain disorders are so prevalent that nearly everyone is relating in some way. We all have that family member or neighbor or coworker who is battling Alzheimer’s or dementia. But a few of the more rare diseases talked about here bring on some mystery and intrigue.

It’s amazing that the diseases that killed or maimed thousands just a few decades ago are not only now treatable, but many are curable. There are still diseases and disorders that unfortunately have no cure. But I am hopeful that the current rate of scientific progress will lead to cures in my lifetime.

Amazing scientific improvements now allow for personalized medical care. We can test individuals for genes and symptoms that are specifically known to react well to treatment. Patients are not blindly lumped together based on broad symptoms anymore. They are hand selected for experiments and treated at the molecular level. Improvements like these will surely lead to more treatments and cures.

I am very interested in doing some follow-up research on the latest technologies and studies. There were a few times where Manning Peskin mentioned some data that will be released soon. I’ll have to keep an eye out for more.

I had a few moments where I felt myself placed into the shoes of the patients. I wondered what I would do if I knew I was destined to fall to the same fate as my 40-year-old dying mother. What if I knew I would succumb to an illness shortly after seeing the first symptoms?

It’s really tragic how quickly and finally things come to an end. My hope is that more research will be conducted to continue to give hope to those suffering from these brain disorders. Books like this will turn the medical jargon and complicated research into user-friendly ideas that will bring awareness to the general population.

This book was very well done and full of great research. I highly recommend A Molecule Away from Madness to any readers looking to understand the amazing medical discoveries that have helped so many suffering patients. These breakthroughs are important to understand because they really showcase the complexity of medicine and the human body.

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