Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB PICK
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.
"Reads like a medical detective journey and sheds light on a topic so many of us face: mental illness." —Oprah Winfrey
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.
“Hidden Valley Road is a riveting true story of an American family that reads like a medical detective journey and sheds light on a topic so many of us face: mental illness.”
“A feat of empathy and narrative journalism.”
—Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times
“Magisterial . . . A weave of gripping reportage and scientific detective story . . . Hidden Valley Road is destined to become a classic of narrative nonfiction.”
—Hamilton Cain, Minneapolis Star Tribune