Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family is a tough book to read. It is not my typical type of book but felt it was one I could not ignore. It deals with a family ravaged by mental illness. This is 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 what an incredible story this is.
We learn of the struggles of each of the diagnosed children and the stories of the daughters as well as the four brothers who were not suffering from schizophrenia. None of the children emerged unscathed. Don, the father, traveled and was distant. Mimi, the mother, was the ultimate caretaker, trying to make the right decisions for each of the ill children, whose schizophrenia manifested in different ways. Mimi survived through the combination of unconditional love mixed with a large dose of denial. And as tragic were the lives of the other six siblings, who waited like time bombs wondering if they would soon develop a mental illness.
A significant portion of the book is devoted to the incredible scientists who had and are working to not only find improved treatments for schizophrenia but to find the means to prevent it in the future. Some of the most hopeful work being done to this day includes the contributions of the Galvins who provided DNA as well as brain scans to these scientists. Remarkable that in the midst of all this tragedy, they agreed to participate in the name of science. The amount of research done by the author is extraordinary and making all this readable to a non-scientific audience is quite a feat.
Since virtually everyone has either been touched by mental illness or knows someone who has been, Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family is a valuable read which shines a light on a topic people don’t talk enough about.
Rated 4 out of 5 stars.
Publication Date: April 7, 2020.
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