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. 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?
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.