Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family

Doubleday. Mar. 2020. 400p. Apr. 2020. 400p. ISBN 9780385543767. $29.95. SCI. SCI
Delving into the mysterious roots of a misunderstood condition, Kolker (Lost Girls) tells the story of the Galvin family, who lived on Hidden Valley Road, and their role in a scientific discovery. Kolker describes how, after discovering that six of the 12 Galvin children were diagnosed with schizophrenia, medical researchers began collecting their genetic material in hopes of determining the biology of the disease. The Galvin clan comes alive in Kolker’s eloquent telling: distant parents Don and Mimi, who wanted to be seen as a model military family; the six affected sons, many of whom spent time in and out of mental hospitals; and two daughters, who were all but abandoned by their parents. Alternating chapters movingly detail the family’s tragedy and despair, including the ways the illness manifests, along with the study of illness as a science in order to determine its genetic makeup. Throughout, Kolker effectively shows how illness impacts each relative, especially those who live alongside it.
VERDICT Kolker masterfully combines scientific intrigue with biographical sketches, allowing readers to feel as if they are right there with the Galvins as researchers examine their genes in the quest for answers. An unforgettable must-read.
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