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Hidden Valley Road : Inside the Mind of an American Family
by Robert Kolker




Overview -
OPRAH'S BOOK CLUB PICK
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES TOP TEN BOOKS OF THE YEAR
ONE OF THE WALL STREET JOURNAL TOP TEN BOOKS OF THE YEAR
PEOPLE'S #1 BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
Named a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, TIME, Slate, Smithsonian, The New York Post, and Amazon

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.

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Overview

OPRAH'S BOOK CLUB PICK
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES TOP TEN BOOKS OF THE YEAR
ONE OF THE WALL STREET JOURNAL TOP TEN BOOKS OF THE YEAR
PEOPLE'S #1 BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
Named a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, TIME, Slate, Smithsonian, The New York Post, and Amazon

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.

 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385543767
  • ISBN-10: 038554376X
  • Publisher: Doubleday Books
  • Publish Date: April 2020
  • Page Count: 400
  • Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.55 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

Hidden Valley Road

Twelve children. Six diagnoses of schizophrenia. Two parents navigating a meager mental health care system in midcentury America.

At the center of Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family are the Galvins, who are unlike any family you’ll ever read about. “This could be the most mentally ill family in America,” writes author Robert Kolker. 

Hidden Valley Road blends two stories in alternating chapters. The first is about the overwhelmed Galvin parents, Don and Mimi, and how raising a boisterous Catholic family of eight sons from the 1950s to the ’70s may have allowed mental illness to hide in plain sight. A “boys will be boys” attitude excused much aberrant behavior.

Hidden Valley Road is a must-read for anyone who seeks to understand how far we’ve come in treating mental illness—and how far we still have to go.

The Galvin daughters, the two youngest, provide the emotional heart of the book. They grew up watching their brothers suffer, while also being terrified of—and terrorized by—them. Granted access to the surviving Galvin relatives, Kolker brilliantly shows how mental illness impacts more than just those who are sick, and how festering family secrets can wreak generational damage.

The second story in Hidden Valley Road details the thankless psychiatric research that has gone into defining schizophrenia and establishing treatments. This research has run parallel to the Galvins’ lives—from early beliefs that bad mothering caused schizophrenia to an institutional reliance on Thorazine, an antipsychotic medication, to more contemporary treatments involving talk therapy and other medications. Kolker walks readers through to the present day, where genetic research into schizophrenia happens largely at the whims of pharmaceutical companies. 

The author creates a powerfully humane portrait of those diagnosed with schizophrenia. The Galvin brothers have done terrible things—sexual abuse, domestic violence, murder—but Kolker is a compassionate storyteller who underscores how inadequate medical treatment and an overreliance on “tough love” and incarceration underpin so much of the trauma this family experienced. 

Hidden Valley Road is heavy stuff, especially for readers with mental illness or sexual abuse in their own families. But it’s a must-read for anyone seeking to understand how far we’ve come in treating one of the most severe forms of mental illness—and how far we still have to go. 

 

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