Through the Shadowlands (Hardcover)

A Science Writer's Odyssey into an Illness Science Doesn't Understand

By Julie Rehmeyer

Rodale Books, 9781623367657, 336pp.

Publication Date: May 23, 2017

List Price: 25.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Julie Rehmeyer felt like she was going to the desert to die.

Julie fully expected to be breathing at the end of the trip—but driving into Death Valley felt like giving up, surrendering. She’d spent years battling a mysterious illness so extreme that she often couldn’t turn over in her bed. The top specialists in the world were powerless to help, and research on her disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, was at a near standstill.

Having exhausted the plausible ideas, Julie turned to an implausible one. Going against both her instincts and her training as a science journalist and mathematician, she followed the advice of strangers she’d met on the Internet. Their theory—that mold in her home and possessions was making her sick—struck her as wacky pseudoscience. But they had recovered from chronic fatigue syndrome as severe as hers.

To test the theory that toxic mold was making her sick, Julie drove into the desert alone, leaving behind everything she owned. She wasn’t even certain she was well enough to take care of herself once she was there. She felt stripped not only of the life she’d known, but any future she could imagine.

With only her scientific savvy, investigative journalism skills, and dog, Frances, to rely on, Julie carved out her own path to wellness—and uncovered how shocking scientific neglect and misconduct had forced her and millions of others to go it alone. In stunning prose, she describes how her illness transformed her understanding of science, medicine, and spirituality. Through the Shadowlands brings scientific authority to a misunderstood disease and spins an incredible and compelling story of tenacity, resourcefulness, acceptance, and love.

About the Author

JULIE REHMEYER is an award-winning mathematics and science writer. She is a contributing editor to Discover Magazine, and has been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wired, Slate, Science News, and more. Her stories have been featured on The History Channel and NPR’s All Things Considered. She is the 2016 recipient of Ted Scripps Environmental Journalism Fellow at The University of Colorado, Boulder, and the Excellence in Statistical Reporting Award. She lives in Santa Fe, NM.

Praise For Through the Shadowlands: A Science Writer's Odyssey into an Illness Science Doesn't Understand


“Julie Rehmeyer's inspiring memoir of surviving the ravages of M.E/C.F.S casts much-needed light on what it's like to live with a poorly understood disease. Humorous, compassionate, and motivated throughout by curiosity, Through the Shadowlands will powerfully illuminate this murky realm for anyone wondering what it's like to suffer and survive.”
Meghan O’Rourke, author of The Long Goodbye

“Julie Rehmeyer is both a real scientist and an award-winning science writer. Her book will have the power to change lives.”
Dave Asprey, New York Times bestselling author, author of Head Strong, and producer of the film “Moldy”

“Only a brilliant science writer could possibly traverse the mysterious landscape of America’s most misunderstood affliction with such grace. From the politics of scientific research to the far reaches of alternative medicine; from the nitty gritty of molecules to the depths of raw emotion — this is a riveting story that will change lives.”
Joan Borysenko, New York Times bestselling author of Minding the Body, Mending the Mind

“Julie Rehmeyer’s self-taught journey through the murky world of mycotoxins, which she shares so eloquently in this book, has helped our whole clinical team change our protocols. With the help of the expert training of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, we are now testing and treating people with mycotoxin poisoning. It is wonderful to see people getting better!”
Nancy Klimas, Director of the Institute for Neuro Immune Medicine and Professor of Medicine at Nova Southeastern University

“It is a privilege to have the singular journey through the outback of contested medicine narrated by a science journalist with the nuance, rigor, deep respectability and reporting chops of Julie Rehmeyer.”
Pamela Weintraub, author of Cure Unknown and commissioning editor at Aeon


"Science journalist Rehmeyer’s deeply personal illness memoir stands out for the lucidity of her self-analysis and pragmatism about managing a life turned upside down by chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). She emerges as simultaneously a science journalist frustrated with established medicine’s dismissiveness, a patient open to the pseudoscientific approaches of non-traditional practitioners, and a desperate woman reaching out to suffering peers on the Internet for support and advice. This last avenue ultimately leads her to an extreme removal of mold from her environment, starting with a body-resetting solo expedition to Death Valley. Exploring ideas of dependence and self-sufficiency, Rehmeyer shows her illness through the lens of her personal relationships—with her strange and abusive mother, mentally ill first husband, mostly distant siblings, and two successive partners, the second of whom is supportive where the first one is not. In this way, she explores her illness’s psychological aspects while never giving up the idea that CFS has a real and profound physiological component. Rehmeyer’s frustrated but cautiously optimistic story will resonate with readers who value an intelligent, scientific approach to life but wonder what to do when there aren’t any good answers."
—Publisher's Weekly

"Harrowing, raw and frequently inspiring... [Rehmeyer] writes as she has been forced to live: with great inner strength and determination." —Washington Post

"A moving portrait of a person living expansively in the face of setbacks and limitations... she is introspective and reflective, open to new ideas and people, and she forges strong friendships with many people around her, including neighbors and fellow science writers. Since reading the book, I've found myself reflecting more on my own emotions and thinking about how to cultivate the kinds of relationships she has with family and friends. Through the Shadowlands is a gift, and I am grateful that Rehmeyer trusts us with this frank, intimate look into her life." —Scientific American