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.
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.