Hidden Valley Road (Kolker)

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family
Robert Kolker, 2020 
Knopf Doubleday
400 pp.

The heartrending story of a midcentury American family with twelve children, six of them diagnosed with schizophrenia, that became science's great hope in the quest to understand the disease.

Don and Mimi Galvin seemed to be living the American dream.

After World War II, Don's work with the Air Force brought them to Colorado, where their twelve children perfectly spanned the baby boom: the oldest born in 1945, the youngest in 1965.

In those years, there was an established script for a family like the Galvins—aspiration, hard work, upward mobility, domestic harmony—and they worked hard to play their parts.

But behind the scenes was a different story: psychological breakdown, sudden shocking violence, hidden abuse. By the mid-1970s, six of the ten Galvin boys, one after another, were diagnosed as schizophrenic. How could all this happen to one family?

What took place inside the house on Hidden Valley Road was so extraordinary that the Galvins became one of the first families to be studied by the National Institute of Mental Health. Their story offers a shadow history of the science of schizophrenia, from the era of institutionalization, lobotomy, and the schizophrenogenic mother to the search for genetic markers for the disease, always amid profound disagreements about the nature of the illness itself.

And unbeknownst to the Galvins, samples of their DNA informed decades of genetic research that continues today, offering paths to treatment, prediction, and even eradication of the disease for future generations.

With clarity and compassion, bestselling and award-winning author Robert Kolker uncovers one family's unforgettable legacy of suffering, love, and hope. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Robert Kolker is the New York Times bestselling author of Lost Girls, named one of the Times's 100 Notable Books and one of Publishers Weekly's Top Ten Books of 2013. It was released as a 2020 Netflix film.

As a journalist, his work has appeared in New York Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, The New York Times Magazine, Wired, GQ, O Magazine,and Men's Journal.

He is a National Magazine Award finalist and a recipient of the 2011 Harry Frank Guggenheim Award for Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
[A] feat of empathy and narrative journalism, as [Kolker] coaxes out the struggles of the Galvin family, showing how they embodied the roiling debates over the science of schizophrenia—not just its causes, "but what it actually is."… Kolker recounts the Galvins' home life with such vivid specificity that it can seem as if he's working up to a suggestion that their upbringing determined the course of their mental health. But… Kolker—who skillfully corrals the disparate strands of his story and gives all of his many characters their due—knows better than to settle for pat truths.
Jennifer Szalai - New York Times

(Starred review) [P]owerful.… Kolker concludes that while "biology is destiny, to a point," everyone is a product of the people who surround us…. This is a haunting and memorable look at the impact of mental illness on multiple generations.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review) Kolker masterfully combines scientific intrigue with biographical sketches, allowing readers to feel as if they are right there with the Galvins as researchers examine their genes in the quest for answers.

(Starred review) A stunning, riveting chronicle crackling with intelligence and empathy…. Kolker tackles this extraordinarily complex story so brilliantly and effectively that readers will be swept away. An exceptional, unforgettable, and significant work that must not be missed.

(Starred review) [R]iveting…. Kolker deftly follows the psychiatric, chemical, and biological theories proposed to explain schizophrenia…. Most poignantly, he portrays the impact on the unafflicted children…. A family portrait of astounding depth and empathy.
Kirkus Reviews

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