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Book Review: Hidden Valley Road

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.     

Expected publication: April 7th 2020 by Doubleday Books

This is a tricky review to write. I can’t imagine the pain and turmoil this family must have felt with so many members sidelined.

We have a fair amount of diagnoses in our home, and this was all very relatable to me.


On the one hand, I feel like you’ve got to understand the inner workings and quirks of a large family to know how real and healthy the at-home atmosphere of the Galvin family will be to families who have one or more members with mental illness.

On the other hand, even one family member who struggles is stressful beyond belief


Even though this isn’t incredibly recent, mental health treatment has not progressed all that far. Many people are still suffering, and the only solution is to keep throwing drugs at them to try and solve the problem of a brain that just isn’t wired correctly.


I can’t say I enjoyed this read. I can say that it’s an important book, and if you are interested in mental health, you will find it well worth your time to read about and learn from the Galvin Family.

By Jenny Naughton

JENNY NAUGHTON and her husband share their 1930's era Chicago home with four sons and a daughter. A voracious reader, Jen reviews books before their release for dozens of publishers on her page: Windy City Reader. Jen also blogs (on WordPress!) about classical, mostly secular, home education at Good Enough Homeschool.
In her spare time, she runs an online book club for teens and helps other home educating family match their kids with the perfect book for them.
You can find Jen misbehaving on social media on
Twitter: @jennynau10

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