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Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  55,548 ratings  ·  6,212 reviews
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.

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 th
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published April 7th 2020 by Doubleday Books
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Anne The research on Henrietta Lack's cells was done without her knowledge or consent. That was much of the point of that story. This book was researched e…moreThe research on Henrietta Lack's cells was done without her knowledge or consent. That was much of the point of that story. This book was researched entirely with the cooperation of the family, thankfully. But both books are heartbreaking, just for different reasons. (less)

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 ·  55,548 ratings  ·  6,212 reviews

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Elyse  Walters
Apr 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Meet the Galvin family......



This is one of those non-fiction books that often reads like fiction. It’s incredibly details, descriptions, character development, storytelling, and facts.
It just seems so inconceivable that ‘this much’ mental illness could hit one nuclear family!
By the end of this book - I felt I knew each of the fourteen family members well - by name, their interests, s
Diane S ☔
Apr 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nfr-2020
The odds of reading two books at the same time, where both families have twelve children, has to be high. That, though is there only commanality. I've never read anything like this, it was both hard to read because if subject matter and well done. Mimi and Don Kohler wanted the American dream, a large family, happy marriage, happy life. After WWII, Done work with the Air Force brought them to California, where at first the family prospered. Ten boys were born in succession, followed finally by t ...more
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Scourge of Schizophrenia

This frightening and seemingly unfathomable, true story is about a family with 12 children in which 6 of the boys develop schizophrenia. So much suffering is hard to take in. For not only did the sick boys endure unbelievable hardships, the well were left to take care of themselves. Parents of one sick child ignore their healthy children, but when there are so many, this behaviour is a lot closer to neglect. Time and time again, reading this, I grew angry at the pare
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“For a family, schizophrenia is, primarily, a felt experience, as if the foundation of the family is permanently tilted in the direction of the sick family member. Even if just one child has schizophrenia, everything about the internal logic of that family changes.”

Few of us have been untouched by mental illness, either in our own families or in one we know. Most families with one mentally ill child struggles. Having six is unfathomable.

Between 1945 and 1965, Mimi and Don Galvin had 12 children,
Jessica Woodbury
3.5 stars. Fascinating, readable, and depressing as hell. Unfortunately this fell a little short for me in a few ways.

At first, the hook of this book is enough to draw your attention. Just one family, with twelve children, where half of them have diagnoses of schizophrenia. When you hear it, it's is such a strange and unusual thing that you do not see it as real experiences. Kolker's main goal here is to change that, to make you see the real impact the illness has on people, how it affects them
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a harrowing and intricate nonfiction account of an all-American family of twelve (ten boys and two girls) born between 1945 and 1965. I can’t begin to imagine having a family of this size much less cope with the onset and aftermath of six of the boys’ schizophrenia. There is abuse among family members as well as what is now considered to be abusive treatment of the afflicted. The Galvin family was instrumental in the research of brain disease given the number of diagnoses and misdiagnose ...more
Nov 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Yikes. This was a disturbing read on so many levels and so dense. It’s a work of nonfiction. Mimi and Don Galvin decided to have 12 kids. Why???? Six of those children, all male, developed schizophrenia. Yet, the parents were too busy trying to be the Joneses rather than addressing what was going on in the household - beyond the mental illness. Abuse - physical and sexual. With Mimi defending the sick ones at the cost of alienating the healthier children.

The parents did try to get the boys help
Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews
I am not sure how to put into word just how affecting Hidden Valley Road is, but I will give it a try here in this review. It's a heavy and dense one that took me a while to read. It wasn't one I wanted to pick up and read, but it was a book about a family I wanted to understand.

Robert Kolker delivers a powerful look at schizophrenia and the quest to understand it through the Galvin Family. Don and Mimi Galvin, the perfect American family image, had 12 children with six sons diagnosed with schi
Jeanette (Now on StoryGraph)

This book was a bit of a chaotic hot mess at the beginning, and I almost gave up on it a couple of times. The author meanders through long descriptions of sewing shut the eyes of birds for falconry, then into tangents about the history of studying mental illness, and a whole bunch of other stuff I've forgotten. I stuck with it because I wanted to know about the family, and it did get more coherent after awhile.

It's not the done thing here in America to tell people how many
Aug 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was, I think, my first book tackling one of the most mysterious diseases, schizophrenia. Mr Kolker explains the ways it was treated in the past in a most accessible way, at least I, not belonging to a medical profession, understood most of it, which does not mean I remembered everything as there is a lot of information, including names of the doctors and those of the medicaments.
Mr Kolker took a sad history of one American family, the Galvins, living in Colorado, as the background for his i
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
Apr 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology, history
See my full review over on Booktube!

Jan 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
****4.5 STARS****

The story follows the gut-wrenching odyssey of the Galvin family. Don and Mimi Galvin had ten boys and two girls between 1945 and 1965. Six of the couple's sons were diagnosed with schizophrenia. The author skillfully weaves the Galvins’ story with the history of schizophrenia and its devastating effects on both the family and the afflicted.

Even without the diagnosis of schizophrenia, their personal family story was intimate and spellbinding for me. Elements of the narrative re
Dec 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
5⭐ This was an incredible read. At so many points, I had to keep reminding myself that this was non-fiction and became emotional reading all that the people in this family went through.

Robert Kolker examines the Galvin family in this book and interspersed through their entire life story is the story of the developments and changes in the study of schizophrenia through those same years. It goes back and forth, chapter after chapter, reading the clinical history alongside the history of this fami
Canadian Reader
Apr 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
Kolker presents an interesting enough story about a large Colorado family plagued by schizophrenia. He also explores some of the research that has been done on this fairly common but devastating mental illness that affects one in one hundred people. Unfortunately, Kolker is not the reliable, skilled writer the material required, and he appears not to have been assisted by an attentive, knowledgeable editor . The book is too long and the writing is sometimes careless. (For example, at one point t ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
Before my review, I just want to say this book left a lump in my throat, it was an emotional journey. I felt it in my gut and wish I could reach out and support every single one of the Galvin children, parents too.

via my blog:
'Mary’s mother is well practiced at laughing off moments like these, behaving as if nothing is strange. To do anything else would be the same as admitting that she lacks any real control over the situation- that she cannot understand w
Donna Davis
Happy anniversary, Doubleday. This is my thirtieth review for you.

Big thanks go to Net Galley and Doubleday for the review copy.

I wanted to read Kolker’s book because so little is written about schizophrenia for the general readership. My best friend’s older brother was schizophrenic, and sometimes she would phone me crying and whispering from the floor of her bedroom closet. The bro—let’s call him Marco--was a large person, over six feet tall with a towering red afro that made him appear even
Lucia McKenzie
Apr 20, 2020 rated it liked it
This book hit close to home for me because my brother has Schizophrenia. It is one of the most slow and painful ways to lose someone, and the impact it has on the entire family is devastating.

For those unfamiliar with Schizophrenia, the average age of onset is early twenties and it affects men at a significantly higher rate than women. The illness manifests in a variety of ways, some cases much more severe than others. What many people don’t realize is that it is a degenerative illness. The det
Apr 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
5 Stars!
Jun 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Imagine growing up in a family of 12 children, where six of them become afflicted by schizophrenia. This is the real-life story of the Galvin family. It's an interesting look at how the mother's desire to shield her 'sick' children from the sometimes more harmful than helpful treatments of the time, led to an even worse childhood for the children who were 'healthy'. Especially for the girls. Mixed in with this family's dynamics is insight into how new and better diagnoses and treatments were dev ...more
L A i N E Y ~back in a bit~
“Children usually have no way of processing trauma beyond their own experience. And so, all too often, they blame themselves.”

What a fascinating book for a remarkable family.

Considering how much stigma still attach to mental illness t-o-d-a-y, in 2020, imagine how incredibly difficult it must have been fifty years ago. All the courage and tenacity and willpower to be able to live through that... Speechless.

The fact that the original researchers fought for over three decades and discovered impor
May 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family is a tough read. It deals with a family ravaged by mental illness. It’s the story of the Galvins, an Air Force family living in Colorado. In this family of twelve children (ten boys, two girls,) six of the boys were diagnosed with schizophrenia. Remarkably, the two sisters had been searching for a way for their family's story to be told – an incredibly brave mission. Luckily, they found the right author in journalist Robert Kolker. And wh ...more
Sep 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
Meticulous research combined with unbiased treatment of the facts leads to a very devastating true story like no other. If you have never known someone with schizophrenia, this story will shock and sadden you. If you love someone with schizophrenia, it will break you open.
4 stars
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
Picture a perfect family. Good looking parents and twelve children who were so gorgeous. The family seemed to have it all together, and yes, I did write twelve children! Don and Mimi Galvin seemed to have it all. He was in the service and had been posted to Colorado where his twelve children were to be raised. His wife Mimi was a stay-at-home mom (she had to be) and had the full-time job of raising these ten boys and two girls. All seemed to be going ever so well as all of the children were brig ...more
Jennifer Blankfein
May 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Review below. Author Q & A on Book Nation by Jen
In Hidden Valley Road, journalist Robert Kolker documents an American family’s incredible journey as they navigate the effects of mental illness; six out of 12 children were diagnosed with schizophrenia, while others experienced sexual abuse and PTSD.

“Schizophrenia affects an estimated one in 100 people – or more than 3 million people in America, and 82 million people worldwide”

The Galvins were a young Air Fo
Oct 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
On the surface the Galvins were the picture perfect family. Mimi comes from upper-crust Texan wealth while Don, soon to become an Air Force Academy official, exudes confidence. They will grow their family until it encompassed 10 boys and 2 girls. But turmoil is a constant companion to the family. Six of the boys would eventually be diagnosed with schizophrenia bringing chaos, abuse, murder and lots of denial to the family. Honestly I'm still not sure whether Mimi Galvin was an absolute narcissis ...more
Diane Yannick
May 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
Mimi Galvin had twelve children and six of them had schizophrenia. Think about that sentence for a minute. I know about Catholic's stance on birth control, but twelve is a boatload. It appeared to me that Mimi was trying to fill an insatiable hole in her own life. I could not forgive her for creating a tribe that she didn't have the skills to rear. She seemed to lose respect for her husband once he lost his status due to health problems. She seemed to favor certain children to the detriment of o ...more
Sonja Arlow
Imagine having 12 children! Now imagine that 6 of them are diagnosed with one of the most misunderstood illnesses of our time. Schizophrenia.

Even today, in a world where no subject (or body part) is taboo anymore, mental illness is still seen as a weakness to be hidden away.

This was a fascinating look at not only one family’s struggle with this disease but also the broader medical community and how research has developed through the decades to try and understand schizophrenia better.

Let’s be hon
Apr 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
I think my expectations were too high for this book. The book is about schizophrenia generally and its genetic components and the ongoing research into heritability, but it's more about the family with 12 kids--the majority of whom had it. I did learn somewhat more than I already knew about the disease, but not much more (read the Gene for better info) and the story of the family was too journalistic and removed to be invested in. I usually always prefer nonfiction, but I think this one might ha ...more
Kimberly McCreight
May 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An incredible book.
I found Hidden Valley Road all over the map. The cover- Don and Mimi Gavin standing atop a spiral staircase smiling, beaming above the arc of ten children in suits, caught my eye. It is sensational- and that six of those sons developed schizophrenia was a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. However, I felt vaguely heartsick reading this biography- as though I was prying into a story that I had no business sticking my nose into.

Mimi Gavin went on to have 12 children, breeding until she put her
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