Hidden Valley Road

Hidden Valley Road

Inside the Mind of An American Family

Book - 2020
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"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 the other, 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 Institutes 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 amidst 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"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Doubleday, [2020]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780385543767
Characteristics: xxi, 377 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 25 cm


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Jan 12, 2021

A fascinating look at an increasingly chaotic family of 12 children, 10 boys. There is a lot of competition and fighting between the boys that becomes increasingly violent. And one by one the boys start experiencing irrational beliefs which cause them to do irrational things like throwing all the furniture out of the house, or walking down the centre line of a highway at night. Finally the behaviour is given a label-schizophrenia. We learn how the family attempted to cope with and get treatment for the boys. They are sent to various psychiatric hospitals and later special facilities that temporarily house and treat the boys. ECT therapy, drug therapy, restraints-it becomes a revolving door where they are stabilized for a couple of months and then released back home, only to return to the hospital or clinic. The chaos in the family home never really stops. From the 50's to the present day, we learn that effective treatments for schizophrenia remain elusive.

Dec 22, 2020

Fascinating book and quite well-written. Would have benefitted from some editing and a bit more focus though -- towards the end, I found myself scanning just to get it finished. Difficult to keep track of twelve siblings, although the author tried to help by listing them each chapter (with the subject(s) of the chapter highlighted).

Dec 01, 2020

The non-fiction book of the year.

LCPL_Cathy Nov 25, 2020

Hidden Valley Road tells the story of a family devastated by schizophrenia. Six of the Galvin family’s twelve children would be diagnosed with the mental illness. The book also tells the history of schizophrenia as well as the research that might offer hope for the future. I highly recommend this book. The author brings each member of the family to life and treats them with compassion and dignity. He also makes the medical information interesting and easy to understand for the layperson

debwalker Nov 20, 2020

When more than intelligence and good looks runs in the family. An American family devastated by schizophrenia. An NYT pick for 2020 best 100 books of the year.

JCLAmyF Nov 13, 2020

This fascinating book explores the intersection of social pressures and psychopharmacology on a very unique family.

MrFrida Oct 04, 2020

Mr. Kolker is a journalist and author. His writing is exemplary. The book is richly written with extensive detail. Mr. Kolker tells the story of the Galvin family in the context of post-World War II American culture. The returning veteran, married couple raising a family in pursuit of the “American Dream”. Parents Don and Mimi raise twelve children (ten boys and two girls) in their house on Hidden Valley Road. Mr. Kolker presents vivid family history. His writing includes a parallel story for the development of mental health care, science, and principles specific to schizophrenia. The story of the Galvin family intertwines with the story for the development of mental health care. Each story impacts the other. The stories include the struggle between nurture versus nature and the impact of that struggle for the Galvin family. The story tells of the family’s participation with mental health care researchers. The book is a page turner. The story is told in a clear, at times painfully truthful, and empathetic manner. One can feel for the family and its struggles over the years. This is a remarkable story to read and to learn from. Mr. Kolker includes extensive notes for his sources, an index, and full bibliography

Sep 28, 2020

What courage for the daughters to bring the family story forward. It’s not only the family story but also the recount of the researches and scientific discoveries and people behind them over the last century. Most of all, the book delivers an intense awareness of mental illnesses and the sufferings of all those involved. Great writing by the author as well.

Aug 05, 2020

This might not end up in my favourite books of 2020 but it will definitely be one of the books that provoked the most thought, opinion and emotion for me. I was just itching to talk to someone about it the whole time I was reading. There were many engaging hooks to this book. The progression of the treatment of mental illness over the decades was certainly interesting as were the dynamics of the family relationships in this very large, deeply damaged family. However it was the parents, and in particular the mother of this family that captured my attention the most. My emotional reactions were all over the place with her. I was at times, disapproving, angry or even bewildered with her. At other times I felt like her biggest advocate. Sometimes my heart just ached for her. I don't know where she found the strength to get up and face each day. The story in this book is a true tragedy. That so much misfortune could rain down on one family is almost unbelievable.

Jul 21, 2020

Don and Mimi Galvin seemed to be the perfect couple and their family large though it was - twelve children in all - seemed to be ideal too, But alas the train that was steaming along got derailed. Six of the ten sons were diagnosed with Schizophrenia. The two daughters escaped but suffered regardless as they were sexually abused. This is a heart-rending story of one American family and what goes on inside their minds. They played a large role in genetic research and one wonders if they would have suffered less had they been born say fifty years later. Robert Kolker has documented the trauma that this family suffered (and caused,) really well. Every mental health professional and mental health consumer needs to read this book.

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