Part memoir, part scientific detective story in the tradition of “Henrietta Lacks,” in A LETHAL INHERITANCE Emmy Award-winning science writer Victoria Costello investigates her family lineage for clues to the mental unraveling of her seventeen-year-old son Alex. Eventually she ties Alex’s descent into hallucinations and months of shoeless wandering on the streets of L.A. to a dark family secret: the apparent suicide of his great-grandfather on a New York City railroad track in 1913.

After learning that countless families share a similar “lethal inheritance,” she begins a decade-long search for answers. Among her discoveries is startling new brain science that sheds light on the links between addictions and undiagnosed mental disorders that have repeated in three past generations of her family–including her own lifelong depression. But her search goes much further, ultimately yielding a new model of recovery based on early intervention and family involvement that can transform a tough genetic hand like Alex’s into a prescription for mental wellness, with implications for present and future generations. In the process, she delivers an unlikely “happy ending” applicable to hers and many other families. As Terrie Moffitt writes in the foreword to the book, Victoria’s “discoveries about causes and new strategies for prevention are worth their weight in gold for readers, especially parents.”

A LETHAL INHERTANCE is at once a primer on neuroscience, a spellbinding account of one family’s turbulent history, and an indispensible guide for parents who want to reverse a legacy of mental illness before it reaches their children.

Click to Read an Excerpt from Chapter One


“In this unique self-revealing and scientifically credible book, Victoria Costello offers advice and reassurance for those who are experiencing mental illness in their family members or themselves. Her down-to-earth perspective will enlighten students and professionals in the helping fields as well.”
—JACK C. WESTMAN, M.D., M.S., professor emeritus of psychiatry in the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

“This honest, lucid book examines the urgent problems of family history and early diagnosis in mental illness from a personal and scientific standpoint. It will be invaluable to families trying to understand their own history, and to those who have been blind to such history.”
, National Book Award winning author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

“…Read (A Lethal Inheritance) because the lessons are so valuable—and read it because it’s a story so beautifully told.”
DEBORAH BLUM, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection

A Lethal Inheritance, by Victoria Costello should be required reading for any parent with a family history of mental illness, for pediatricians, and for educators. Ms. Costello elegantly weaves personal history and scientific research into a compelling and profoundly important narrative…”
author of Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace

“…A Lethal Inheritance is a graceful balance between science and memoir.”
—LINDA GRAY SEXTON, author of Half in Love, Surviving the Legacy of Suicide, and Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Ann Sexton

“…Victoria Costello’s sad but gripping account of her family’s struggles to reach recovery demonstrates the value of resilience, and persistence. It’s helpful to all of us to be reminded of that.”
Former AP Chief Science Correspondent and author of Acquainted with the Night: A Parent’s Quest to Understand Depression and Bipolar Disorder in his Children

“Victoria Costello masterfully interweaves self-revelation, family history and cutting-edge science to share a story of hope, and ultimately, great joy as she and her sons find treatment and meaningful recovery. The factual information she shares about the disorders that trouble her family and the discoveries she makes about causes and new strategies for prevention are worth their weight in gold for readers, especially for parents.”
From the foreword by TERRIE MOFFITT, PH.D.



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