I recently had the opportunity to read Victoria Costello’s new book, A Lethal Inheritance: A Mother Uncovers the Science behind Three Generations of Mental Illness. As I mentioned in her guest post, Costello is a noted science journalist and author of several books focusing on psychology and parenting. Perhaps equally important, however, is the fact that she is the mother of two boys (now adults) who have struggled with mental illness, as has she. The book is her memoir of her family’s experience with major mental illness, including schizophrenia and depression, but it’s also so much more than that. As she and her sons experience emotional and psychological ups and downs, find treatment, and eventually stabilize, Costello also recounts her discovery of a genetic predisposition towards mental illness in her family tree. Using her family as a case study, Costello is able to accomplish two notable things with this book that I think make it applicable and compelling to almost any reader.
Costello explains many of these types of gene-environment interactions in order to illustrate factors that put individuals at risk for mental illness, particularly those with a genetic predisposition.