Kolker carefully reconstructs the story of the household falling into bedlam as the strong, athletic brothers warred with their demons and one another in flights of violent rage, each one slipping further away ... Kolker tells their story with great compassion, burrowing inside the particular delusions and hospitalizations of each brother while chronicling the family’s increasingly desperate search for help. But Hidden Valley Road is more than a narrative of despair, and some of the most compelling chapters come from its other half, as a medical mystery ... A gifted storyteller, Kolker brings each family member to life ... Kolker is a restrained and unshowy writer who is able to effectively set a mood. As the walls begin closing in for the Galvins, he subtly recreates their feeling of claustrophobia, erasing the outside world that has offered so little help.
In this fascinating yet deeply disturbing book, the journalist Robert Kolker burrows deep into the issue of nature versus nurture. As with his previous outing, Lost Girls , about a series of murders on Long Island, it’s a work of precise reportage: he spoke to all the surviving members of the Galvin family, including matriarch Mimi before her death in 2017, creating a startlingly intimate account of a family ruptured from within by forces they could not control. From the name of the Galvins’ street to their love of falconry, an exercise in controlling wildness, the material often has an uncanny, novelistic quality. At times it’s reminiscent of Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides : an all-American family, an inexplicable contagion, a malignant turning inwards, all against a backdrop of respectable conformity ... Kolker, careful and compassionate, hasn’t turned Hidden Valley Road into a pure horror story, but by revealing the Galvins’ remarkable circumstances, he shows just how delicately balanced a family, a mind — a whole life — can be.
Mr. Kolker’s riveting, compassionate Hidden Valley Road tells the story of a family besieged by devastating mental illness ... With the skill of a great novelist, Mr. Kolker brings every member of the family to life ... Mr. Kolker describes all this science well, without getting lost in technical details. His chief achievement, however, is an absorbing narrative of persistence, adjustment and exhilaration—followed by repeated disappointment when discoveries fail to replicate or yield effective treatments ... Hidden Valley Road vividly conveys not only the inner experience of schizophrenia but its effects on the families whose members are afflicted.
...a...feat of empathy and narrative journalism ... Kolker recounts the Galvins’ home life with such vivid specificity that it can seem as if he’s working up to a suggestion that their upbringing determined the course of their mental health. But family turmoil is inherently more amenable to narrative drama than the slow, painstaking crawl of medical research, and Kolker — who skillfully corrals the disparate strands of his story and gives all of his many characters their due — knows better than to settle for pat truths.
A weave of gripping reportage and scientific detective story, Hidden Valley Road plumbs the heart-wrenching tragedies and surprising triumphs of the Galvins...in a page-turner ... He moves nimbly from the foreground plot to broader clinical investigations and the terra incognita of the brain ... a tale like no other ... destined to become a classic of narrative nonfiction.
Mimi’s heart, her image, and the gingerbread house are among the many broken things in Robert Kolker’s new book Hidden Valley Road. Named for the street the Galvins lived on in Colorado Springs, Kolker’s book splices the history of their family with an account of the gradual rise of genetic research in studying and treating mental illness ... The surprising lesson of Hidden Valley Road is that schizophrenia has long been a literary subject. It entered public consciousness through memoir and is still, in Kolker’s work, best examined at length, in writing. In narrating the history of a family whose many unwell members would have a hard time articulating their own experiences, Kolker works towards a common language of the mind.
The author creates a powerfully humane portrait of those diagnosed with schizophrenia ... Kolker is a compassionate storyteller who underscores how inadequate medical treatment and an overreliance on 'tough love' and incarceration underpin so much of the trauma this family experienced. Hidden Valley Road is heavy stuff, especially for readers with mental illness or sexual abuse in their own families. But it’s a must-read for anyone seeking to understand how far we’ve come in treating one of the most severe forms of mental illness—and how far we still have to go.
... the Galvins...wanted...a book about their family because they ‘believed their story had something that could be of comfort to other people who are suffering’. I can’t quite work out why ... If their biography offers any comfort, it’s of the bleakest—almost un-American—kind ... Despite Kolker’s best efforts, the negative symptoms of schizophrenia plus the ‘emotional flattening’ of antipsychotic drugs often has the effect of blurring all the sick Galvin men into a single character ... What is it like to have psychosis? Kolker has spent hundreds of hours with the Galvins, but they can’t tell him.
... engrossing ... shows readers the personal side of a family’s almost unimaginable struggle with multiple cases of mental illness, and he also writes a history of how such illnesses have been treated that is by turns heartbreaking, enraging and hopeful.
... part multi-generational family saga, part medical mystery, written with an extraordinary blend of rigor and empathy. The reporter in Kolker seeks accuracy above all, but there’s a notable lack of judgment in the book that feels remarkable in light of the stigma long felt by those who have the condition in their families ... despite the lonely battles fought by both patients and researchers, Kolker’s Hidden Valley Road is at heart a book about how progress, personal or scientific, can never be achieved on our own.
Kolker’s telling of the Galvin trials is at once deeply compassionate and chilling. He gives as much voice to the schizophrenic siblings as he does to their relatives, many of whom suffered tremendous psychological and sexual abuse from being in their orbit ... Kolker is particularly sensitive in broaching the sisters’ conflicted feelings about their family — what he chronicles as a tortured tangle of hate, guilt and love that they ultimately struggle to confront throughout their lives ... The book gives much space to how difficult the disease has been to diagnose and treat. Yet it ends in 2017, as a story of hope.
Scientists are grateful for the important research that has evolved from the Galvins. The author has done a masterful job in describing the family dynamics as well as psychiatry so that an armchair psychologist or someone who has done much research on this subject can glean value from reading this. This chilling, haunting saga rivals The Glass Castle,Sybil,Educated, and many other books as devastating as this. The book is easy to follow and every chapter has startling facts. Hidden Valley Road is bound to live on with readers long after they’ve turned the last page.
...a tour de force account of this devastating and mysterious medical malady – and the efforts of geneticists and neurobiologists to find a cure for it. Mr. Kolker takes us inside a family that seemed likely to take full advantage of post War II prosperity ... The horrors visited on the Galvin family are almost unfathomable ... Alongside the family tragedy, Mr. Kolker reviews the age-old question: is schizophrenia 'caused' by nature (heredity) or nurture (the environment).
.. .[a] stunning, riveting chronicle crackling with intelligence and empathy ... Through copious interviews and extensive research, Kolker is able to bring readers into the family’s seemingly perfect middle-class life ... Amidst detailed descriptions of sibling rivalries and fights that terrorized the younger children, Kolker illustrates how the Galvins fell to pieces. Into this gripping personal tale he weaves the larger history of schizophrenia research and how the family eventually came to the attention of scientists striving to find a cure. Kolker tackles this extraordinarily complex story so brilliantly and effectively that readers will be swept away. An exceptional, unforgettable, and significant work that must not be missed.
... a powerful look at schizophrenia and the quest to understand it ... Drawing on extensive interviews with family members and close acquaintances, [Kolker] creates a taut and often heartbreaking narrative of the Galvins’ travails ... This is a haunting and memorable look at the impact of mental illness on multiple generations.
... a riveting and disquieting narrative ... Kolker deftly follows the psychiatric, chemical, and biological theories proposed to explain schizophrenia and the various treatments foisted upon the brothers. Most poignantly, he portrays the impact on the unafflicted children of the brothers’ illness, an oppressive emotional atmosphere, and the family’s festering secrets. By the 1980s, the Galvins became subjects of researchers investigating a genetic basis for the illness; those extensive medical records inform this compelling tale ... A family portrait of astounding depth and empathy.