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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Oprah calls this book club pick “an extraordinary scientific detective story and family saga.” Journalist Robert Kolker draws us into the jaw-dropping true story of the Galvin family—Mimi, Don, and their 12 children—to explore powerful themes like mental illness, our limited understanding of the human brain, trauma, resilience, and forgiveness. His astonishing book follows the Galvins from the late 1940s, when Don and Mimi are a young all-American couple with seemingly infinite promise, through the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, as six of their ten sons are eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia, to the present, as the remaining family members come to terms with the shame, denial, secretiveness, and chaos caused by the stigma around this horrific disease of the brain. Kolker’s first book, Lost Girls, fell squarely into the true-crime camp, and his ability to build suspense and ferret out hidden truths is a large part of the reason that Hidden Valley Road is such a page-turning read, despite the seriousness and complexity of the subject matter. We can honestly say this is one of the most gripping, fascinating, and moving portraits of a family that we have ever read. It filled us with compassion and a sense of urgency about talking about mental illness openly and honestly.
Journalist Kolker (Lost Girls) delivers a powerful look at schizophrenia and the quest to understand it. He focuses on a much-studied case: that of Colorado couple Don and Mimi Galvin's 12 children, born between 1945 and 1965, six of whom were diagnosed with the illness. Drawing on extensive interviews with family members and close acquaintances, he creates a taut and often heartbreaking narrative of the Galvins' travails, which included a murder-suicide and sexual abuse. Their story also allows Kolker to convey how ideas about schizophrenia's cause changed over the 20th century, from theories blaming controlling and emotionally repressive mothers (a type epitomized by Mimi Galvin) to views of the disease as biologically determined a hypothesis researchers hoped to use the family to substantiate. In one especially moving passage, Kolker catches up in 2017 with one of the Galvin girls' daughters in college, where she is interning in a neuroscience lab with hopes of researching schizophrenia. Kolker concludes that while "biology is destiny, to a point," everyone is "a product of the people who surround us the people we're forced to grow up with, and the people we choose to be with later." This is a haunting and memorable look at the impact of mental illness on multiple generations.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Ok what now
And now what are we going to do about this? The brothers don’t have a place to go. Nice book but how about a solution?
Sorry for your pain Lindsay
This book gives a transparent meaning to mental illness. Beautifully written, touching, and such a worthwhile read. I’ve learned so much about what schizophrenia is and isn’t . A must read!
One of the best books
Read in one sitting. Fascinating.
Rae Brown MD