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A Lethal Inheritance: A Mother Uncovers the Science behind Three Generations of Mental Illness
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A Lethal Inheritance: A Mother Uncovers the Science behind Three Generations of Mental Illness

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3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  115 ratings  ·  28 reviews
In this riveting story--part memoir, detective story, and scientific investigation--Costello recounts how the mental unraveling of her 17-year-old son, Alex, compelled her to look back into family history for clues to his condition.
Paperback, 220 pages
Published January 2012 by Prometheus Books
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,563)
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Jen
Absolutely marvelous. A must read for parents regardless of whether you believe there is or is not mental illness in your ancestry. Learning about the intersection of genetics and environment is crucial for living in todays world. Whether your cause, your issue is mental health, learning disabilities, environmental safety, addiction, prenatal care, cancer prevention/treatment or a host of other things, this concept of G x E is crucial.

The memoir parts offer compelling evidence of the authors sin
...more
Lisa Powell
This book was very informative and gives hope that even though a child may be genetically disposed to a mental illness, there are ways to recognize indicative behaviors and prevent the disease...often without the use of drugs.
Angela
Very interesting. But if you are a parent who suffers from anxiety or depression - this book will make you anxious and depressed. Fact.
Jane
Very Good. Very Interesting. Lots of facts and studies. Well researched. Written in a very readable, storylike fashion.
Jennie
The first part of the book was a little slow for me. It was more of the research and part memior of her son Alex's schizophrenia. It was a heavy subject so I often only read 10-20 pages at a time. I'm sure it would be more applicable to families that face similar situations.

My interest was more in the correlation of mental illness and addiction. I have a family history of both. It was interesting Victoria's findings of the mental health issues when she did some digging into her Irish heritage. I
...more
Kate
If you have any questions about how your mental health history, and the mental health of anyone in your family tree, might impact your children, you should read this book. It's part scientific review, part memoir. And it offered a lot of things to think about - some more obvious than others - regarding the importance of knowing your mental health history so as to be a better parent. Like the fact that the more you dig into your family history, the better equipped you are to recognize and address ...more
Rhonda Rae Baker
This is a powerfully researched topic with memoir interlaced for example. Not an easy read, especially if there is body memory that surfaces, which was my case. I learned so much and had to go back and reread sections for greater understanding.

I cannot express how important this information is, especially to those with mental illness in their family background. Being an adoptee, I knew nothing of my history...this greatly hindered my own life and damaged my children because I was unable to help
...more
Jessica
This was an incredibly fascinating and informative book. When Victoria Costello's older son was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 18 she starts to delve into mental health and try to figure out how best to help him. What she realizes a few years after her son's diagnosis is that she first needs to look at herself and her family's mental health history. But, looking into her family medical history she quickly realizes that there are 4 generations of mental illness at work and that she al ...more
Skye
This book has changed my life with regards to really taking a closer look at some of the "secrets" in my own ancestors' history. Is there a generic link to alcoholism? What about mental illness? What is really behind some of my grandmother's odd behavior? And my mothers? Have I followed in suit?

I applaud Victoria Costello for boldly taking a journey backward in time to research the skeletons in her closet. Through examining generations of psychiatric issues, she has uncovered risk factors and ea
...more
Melissa
What a courageous and eye-opening view of not only a mother navigating her children through the mental-health field, but also recognizing her own struggle with mental illness. Having seen my brother's mental illness and then facing my own, I found Ms. Costello's account to be very moving. I think her science-writing background bodes well here, but she also makes all of it quite accessible.
Gordon
This is an important book for all of us. Health workers, teachers, parents need this information.

Costello looks into the research on GxE, genetics and environment. There has long been a suspicion that most mental problems have an underlying genetic cause that is triggered by an environmental factor. Now the research is getting specific about those combined factors. This information is beginning to reach the treatment and prevention phase. While the book is focused primarily on schizophrenia, the
...more
Joanne in Canada
Nov 01, 2013 Joanne in Canada rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone with family mental health concerns
Recommended to Joanne by: Diane
Shelves: non-fiction
Costello blends a frank recounting of her family's history of mental health issues with descriptions and evaluation of scientific research to encourage readers to examine and deal with their past, present and future. Some of the information is densely written--yet accessible--and worth the time and effort.
Holly
Jan 18, 2014 Holly added it
Shelves: 2012-reads
The intended audience is families dealing with depression, addiction, and especially, schizophrenia. I'm sure this book will be extremely helpful and edifying for those readers who want to understand the basics of the disease.
Peggy
A mother uncovers the science behind three generations of mental illness in her family. I liked this book and felt like it gave me a lot of useful information about preventing and recognizing mental illness in your family. She also talks about her family and relates personal experiences with her two sons, one who is bi-polar and one who is schizophrenic, as well as discovering that she herself needed to be treated for depression.
She also shares findings about clinical studies and new advances in
...more
Van
I like the personal stories and some of the scientific explanations but I do get bogged down in some of the medical jargon.
Trena
I keep striking out on schizophrenia books. I was extremely disappointed by Stalking Irish Madness: Searching for the Roots of My Family's Schizophrenia, which turned out to be some guy's random musings on schizophrenia in his family. What with having the word "science" in the title I thought this book would be about, you know, science. But it is not. It is some woman's random musings on schizophrenia in her family.

She makes an effort to dress up her memoir with science, but I didn't trust anyt
...more
Angie Mangino
A Lethal Inheritance
By Victoria Costello
2012
Reviewed by Angie Mangino
Rating: 5 stars

As a working single mother, Victoria Costello uses her expertise as a science journalist to include a historical rendering of facts from studies done to support her work about mental illness. She shows the cross-generational pattern that many times prevents obtaining necessary treatment, which causes untold pain in families.

A Lethal Inheritance begins with incidents that opened her eyes to see and act on what wa
...more
Cindy Dyson Eitelman
Through no fault of the book's, I somehow convinced myself it would be more history and less science. Thus I was disappointed...but only the tiniest little bit so. You can't manufacture family history to make a great story better--but you can tell the truth. (She did.)

It's a story of one mother and her difficult fight for her two son's mental health--and ultimately her own--but it's also a story of the science, research, history and future of mental illness in the world. I can't even list all of
...more
Jacob
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michelle
I may add more later, but wanted to say I really enjoyed this book. I felt it was an engaging mix of memoir and science writing. There was enough memoir that it reads almost like a thriller, but the information mixed in is very detailed and carefully researched and referenced. Some areas of the book are more seamless than others, but I didn't think it detracted from the point. At 230 pages of actual writing, it's a quick read.

While this is a book that can certainly be read and enjoyed by the ma
...more
Jessica
Too much drama. She says that she hopes that mental illness treatment will progress until mental illness is only as bad as cancer (p. 34). Enough said.
HeavyReader
Feb 27, 2014 HeavyReader marked it as did-not-read-it-all
Shelves: first-reads
Ok, so I didn't read this book at all.

I won it through First Reads right at the start of a CRAZY time in my life and ended up not reading it. I can't remember if I gave it away or turned it in for trade at a used book store.

I wouldn't even list it, but I want to put in on my First Reads shelf, since I DID win it.
Angela
I found myself very disappointed with this book. I thought it was strictly on the science and nature of mental illnesses, but it became more of a memoir with lots of repeats. Good for basic, general information. Could have been so much better.
Carol
A mother reviews her family history when her teenage son develops mental illness. The thread of mental illness is explored throughout the generations. Clear that there is a genetic link to some mental illness.
Heidi Kreizinger
Good book on how szycoprenia (sp) and bi-polar and go down from generation to generation. The only thing I didn't like was all the studies etc. But since I have bi-polar, it was interesting for me.
Colleen
I thought this book would less personal memoir and more understanding the general nature of family shared mental illnesses.
Dkattean
Very little memoir, a lot of statistics. Interesting, but could have been better.
Rachel Nova
Rachel Nova marked it as to-read
Dec 20, 2014
Anssi
Anssi marked it as to-read
Dec 19, 2014
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Why I wrote this book... 1 8 Dec 23, 2011 10:02AM  
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2052575
I'm a science and parenting writer with two recent books that I'm excited to share with my Goodreads friends. I tell the deeply personal story of my ten-year journey from despair to recovery and joy for myself and my two sons in my upcoming memoir, A LETHAL INHERITANCE, A MOTHER UNCOVERS THE SCIENCE BEHIND THREE GENERATIONS OF MENTAL ILLNESS.I'm thrilled with some of my early reviews...Andrew Solo ...more
More about Victoria Costello...
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing a Memoir The Complete Idiots Guide to Writing a Memoir A Lethal Inheritance: A Mother Uncovers the Science Behind Three Generations of Mental Illness. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Child and Adolescent Psychology The Marrying Kind (Love Between Mortals)

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