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A Legacy of Madness: Recovering My Family from Generations of Mental Illness
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A Legacy of Madness: Recovering My Family from Generations of Mental Illness

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  148 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
Dorothy Winans 'Dede' Davis had worried, fussed, and obsessed for the last time. Her heart stopped beating in a fit of anxiety, soon after her wobbly legs gave way. In the wake of his mother's death, Tom Davis knew one thing: Helplessly self-absorbed and severely obsessive compulsive, Dede led a tormented life. She had moved from nursing home to mental institution in recen ...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published September 1st 2011)
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Staci C
So, I did enjoy this book, but I was left extremely frustrated. I wanted to read the book in the first place because my family faces many of the same issues that are described in the blurb. However, I am the spouse in this situation. I married in to a family with severe anxiety disorders. My Mother in law is OCD, her father was nearly incapacitated by agoraphobia, her sister has what I believe is turrets syndrome, you get the picture. My husband deals with many of the same issues including panic ...more
Oct 05, 2011 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Full disclosure off the bat - the author is a friend of mine. That said, he's a good enough friend for me to be honest in my review. Let it also be known that I do not make it a habit to read memoirs or books about mental illness. In fact, I picked up the book to support the author with no intention of reading it. It felt uncomfortable; too... voyeuristic. A chat with the author allayed by hesitation and I'm glad it did.
This no no "Million Little Pieces" or whatever that lie was called. This is
Feb 15, 2012 Jacqui rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! That’s my first impression. This is an important book everyone needs to read. Everyone is affected by mental illness. Make no mistake about it, whether it’s a family member, a friend, or co-worker …. Davis crafts this page-turner with such clarity and detail about his generations of family mental illness, starting with his great-great grandparents who both committed suicide to the decade’s long struggle of his mother before her eventual death in 2003.
It’s clear from the beginning this isn’
May 26, 2012 Christine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a true story about Tom Davis and his family's struggles with mental illness. It contains many personal stories about his own experience with bulimia and how his family dealt with his mother and grandfather who suffered from depression, OCD, and were alcoholics. He also investigates the circumstances around the suicides of his great-grandfather and great-great-grandmother.

I was impressed by the author's story and willingness to share very personal information about his family's histo
Bill Borden
Oct 18, 2011 Bill Borden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A must read to help understand mental illness and its devastating impact on families. Tom writes with great clarity and detail about his mom's struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder and alcoholism. He delves into his family's history and the tragedies of how failing mental health has cascaded through prior generations. The author also recognizes his own issues, those of his siblings and the steps taken to protect his children's mental health.
Apr 17, 2012 Kelly rated it really liked it
"Where we came from dictates where we are going, what we are attracted to and what we are afraid of."

I've said it before and I will be redundant and say it again: no one is normal. That chick in your office who always looks perfect, the celebrity on television, the guy at the bank making a large deposit...each of us has something. What Mr. Davis does here is not only recognize that, but embraces and learns from it in order to try to help himself and his family. Reviving his ancestors most brutal
Aug 29, 2012 Esthy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Coming from a family with a history of mental illness, suicide and simply odd behaviours, I couldn't wait to read this book. At the end of the day however, I was disappointed. The ultimate theme (to educate about mental illness as a journalist) lay a little flat because I did not feel that educated by his book. I took from it that his main points were that mood, behaviour and psychiatric disorders have a a genetic component (surprise!). The other big theme was a kind of continuous, low grade lam ...more
This was an incredibly moving and very personal account of generations of mental illness deeply effecting the lives of everyone involved in Tom Davis's family line. I'm very impressed by his honesty and openness. For people without experience with mental illness, I'm sure this will be a very illuminating book. As an added bonus, the author's career is writing, he has been a professional journalist for over 20 years. Not only does he convey an honest and personal history, but he does so with the ...more
Tom Davis is so brave. Despite advances in medical technology, our society still does not know the illnesses and causes of death for grandparents and great grandparents-especially those family members who suffered from mental illnesses.

When children are very young, they assume how their parents run the home is normal or like other homes. As children age, they begin to see their parents might be different. The author dove into his family history, confronted his troubled childhood,shared his darke
Phoenix Carvelli
Review copy won on on 3-13-12.

Mr. Davis shows amazing courage to discuss these issues in such a public forum. Thank you for sharing this very personal matter so that others may learn from your family's experience. Well done.
Jun 06, 2012 Jean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kind of a heartbreaking story of a family but filled with
good information.
This book is a unique story that documents mental illness in one family throughout several generations. It is a look at one family’s struggle of both working and living in a mental health facility, while having loved ones suffering from mental illness. As a person who has a daughter with severe bipolar I disorder and was recently hospitalized for stabilization, I found this book to be very helpful during her time of stay. Like the author, I had a grandparent that suffered with a mental illness a ...more
Cindy Raquepau
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Diane Mchugh
Nov 29, 2016 Diane Mchugh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I guess the fact that the father of the author was my elementary school principal and I know all of the towns, beaches, etc mentioned in the book helped me enjoy reading about a very heavy subject. Written with great candor, this story sheds light on the horrors and frustrations of dealing with mental illness in the family as well as the opportunity to improve one's own mental health. An important book.
Summer Sterling
A memoir about a fascinating family. It was very well written, but I had a terribly hard time keeping up with all the family members' names, especially because the author bounced back and forth from the past to the current day so often. I would have given the book four stars otherwise.
Kristine Kucera
An interesting story; but, too repetitive sometimes. Well written, interesting perspective, fast read. I admired the honesty...
Cynthia Daniels-Hall
Cynthia Daniels-Hall rated it really liked it
Aug 09, 2014
Gale rated it it was amazing
Nov 02, 2013
Doni Katz
Doni Katz rated it really liked it
Oct 12, 2011
Breanne Calvert
Breanne Calvert rated it it was ok
Jul 15, 2015
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Sep 21, 2011
Shana rated it did not like it
May 28, 2012
Laura rated it it was ok
Jan 27, 2013
Vampire Fruit
Vampire Fruit rated it did not like it
Nov 28, 2014
Jonny Bob
Jonny Bob rated it it was amazing
Aug 21, 2011
Patricia Howard
Patricia Howard rated it it was ok
Jan 17, 2015
Jordan rated it really liked it
Jun 16, 2012
Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Feb 06, 2012
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Apr 11, 2012
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Tom Davis is an award-winning journalist and web producer who is the regional editor for Jersey Shore news at AOL's His book, "A Legacy of Madness: Recovering My Family from Generations of Mental Illness," is scheduled to be released by Hazelden Publishing on Oct. 3, 2011. The book is available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Wal-Mart and many independent retailers. The book was endorsed b ...more
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