cover image Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family

Robert Kolker. Doubleday, $29.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-385-54376-7

Journalist Kolker (Lost Girls) delivers a powerful look at schizophrenia and the quest to understand it. He focuses on a much-studied case: that of Colorado couple Don and Mimi Galvin’s 12 children, born between 1945 and 1965, six of whom were diagnosed with the illness. Drawing on extensive interviews with family members and close acquaintances, he creates a taut and often heartbreaking narrative of the Galvins’ travails, which included a murder-suicide and sexual abuse. Their story also allows Kolker to convey how ideas about schizophrenia’s cause changed over the 20th century, from theories blaming controlling and emotionally repressive mothers (a type epitomized by Mimi Galvin) to views of the disease as biologically determined—a hypothesis researchers hoped to use the family to substantiate. In one especially moving passage, Kolker catches up in 2017 with one of the Galvin girls’ daughters in college, where she is interning in a neuroscience lab with hopes of researching schizophrenia. Kolker concludes that while “biology is destiny, to a point,” everyone is “a product of the people who surround us—the people we’re forced to grow up with, and the people we choose to be with later.” This is a haunting and memorable look at the impact of mental illness on multiple generations. (Apr.)