Hidden Valley Road - Robert Kolker

Hidden Valley Road

By Robert Kolker

  • Release Date: 2020-04-07
  • Genre: Biographies & Memoirs
Score: 4
From 2,932 Ratings


#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB PICK ONE OF GQ's TOP 50 BOOKS OF LITERARY JOURNALISM IN THE 21st CENTURY 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

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.


  • Hidden Valley Road

    By ldodson2
    Excellent read. At times. I couldn’t put it down. Thank you for addressing mental illness in a manner that prevents shame and embarrassment and for humanizing those who possess it.
  • Schizophrenia- a Family Affair

    By Wndrgmom
    This was an intense read. I learned so much historical as well as current info. on this debilitating disease. Hearing the stories of the unaffected children was heartbreaking at times. This disease affects the entire family. I hope more breakthroughs will come soon in order to alleviate the pain and suffering as well as lost lives of those affected as well as those who suffer along side them; mothers, fathers and siblings.
  • Weirdly, a page turner

    By Suesan Whitt
    At some point, I couldn’t put this book down. I don’t know anyone with schizophrenia or much about the disease. But, the deep dive into the family dynamic was fascinating especially because it included sexual abuse in that family.
  • Informative, compelling and inspiring!

    By LARheals
    My favorite uncle was diagnosed with schizophrenia which prompted a lifelong interest in the topic. This book was amazing much like the family it depicts. I’m so grateful for the researchers and to the author who made this book so readable.
  • Enlightening

    By Kdemetris
    So intriguing and well written! I loved it and was hooked from the first page.
  • A Must Read

    By LisHeredia
    An easy read to understand a complex issue
  • Great read

    By Granola Glamour Girl
    Great writing, fascinating true story of the struggles families with mentally illness face. Really love the intersection of narrative with historical facts and research woven together in each chapter.
  • Very Enlightening‼️

    By Cubero Guy
    A great factual story about a family, disease, & current medical conditions concerning mental illnesses. The book was also an easy read for a layperson to follow & understand. More well-written books need to be written about mental illnesses to chip away at the old myths & “tabos” about this disease. I'm thankful for all involved with book especially the author.
  • Sad, insightful page turner!

    By Lisa BfromtheOC
    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!!
  • Raw and honest view into mental illness

    By kaykaybean13
    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.