Hidden Valley Road

Hidden Valley Road Summary

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
Named a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by The New York TimesThe Washington Post, NPR, TIME,and more

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.

Book Reviews

Lisa BfromtheOC

Sad, insightful page turner!5 star

This was a compelling read. Develops like a good drama/suspense story; woven with lots of medical research. Reminded me a bit like Killers of the Flower Moon w/Far From the Tree (by Andrew Solomon) on the side. A great non fiction!!55

Becca L. Rockwood

A Stunning Look at the Effects of Mental Illness5 star

This book provides a shocking look at how Schizophrenia ravaged a family of twelve children. Be prepared for some very haunting images when reading this book. The author spares no details when describing the illnesses of these (real life) characters and their interactions with each other. However, the book is also very educational, discussing the ongoing debates concerning the causes of schizophrenia. Although this is a depressing book to read, it is ultimately a thought-provoking look at the causes and effects of mental illness.55


Raw and honest view into mental illness5 star

Incredibly raw and heart wrenching story of a family with too many children, too few coins and a whole lot of chaos mixed with severe mental illness that was just far bigger and an extremely tragic family life filled with so much loss and soul crushing travesties that would embed within them all their entire lives.55

CS Taylor

Insightful5 star

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!55

Rae Brown MD

One of the best books5 star

Read in one sitting. Fascinating. Rae Brown MD55


Keeps you reading5 star

Utterly fascinating from start to finish55

Baker3 Mom

Very fascinating story5 star

I have never before read a book as intriguing as this one. The story is so overwhelming, sad, confusing, and fascinating, all at the same time. At times I felt the children’s pain, despair, and hopeless feelings. It is a very eye opener to what mental illness can do to a beautiful family whom at one time seemed to have the potential to have a better outcome.55


Mid read I have texted all of my friends to read immediately5 star

What a amazing piece of non-fiction that reads like fiction. A heartbreaking tale from everyone’s point of view.55


Ok what now4 star

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 Lindsay45


The painful reality of how this family deals with the stigma of schizophrenia4 star

Knowing that the one sister did everything for the boys and the other was too selfish to give of herself. Then she blamed it on the sister for caring enough to love what was broken even at her own expense.45

Other Books by Robert Kolker

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