A Lethal Inheritance
By Victoria Costello
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 was hiding in plain sight all along. Part two embellishes the family tree, and her search to find the roots of mental illness in her family; while in part three; she completes her personal story, and offers vision for others to understand the science and practice of recovery, as well as prevention.
The major strength of this book is Costello’s combination of sharing her family’s experiences with scientific facts, treatments, and debates.
Readers struggle with her family, and may see similarities in their own families, as she propels into action once understanding the family dynamics unfolding. Her son Alex openly acts out, as did her sister Rita. Her son Sammy quietly keeps everything in, as originally did the author.
The book concludes with resources, notes, and an index to rival any textbook on mental illness, but to its credit, does not read like one, thanks to the author’s openness in sharing. She presents the knowledge with scientific authority, but never loses the voice of a loving and concerned mother.
Mental illness is many times not seen or completely understood because it is difficult to face the facts, and so easy to deny out of self-protection. What is necessary is first to understand, which eventually enables finding one’s way to a solution through treatment.
Part three of the book begins with a quote from August Bier, a German surgeon practicing at the turn of the nineteenth century.
“A smart mother makes often a better diagnosis than a poor doctor.”
Victoria Costello proves to be one such smart, concerned mother, who intimately shares her family pain that led to the intelligent conclusions she shares with readers.