Hidden Valley Road

I recently read the non-fiction book "Hidden Valley Road" by Robert Kolker. This is an intriguing book, and a very sad one. It is the true story of an American family with twelve children, half of them ultimately diagnosed with schizophrenia.

At first, it seems as if Don and Mimi Galvin are truly living the American dream. After WWII, Don's career with the Air Force brought them to Colorado. There, they raised twelve children born between 1945 and 1965. What happened in that home, as one by one, six of the sons became seriously mentally ill, was horrifying. All members of the family experienced a home life that included psychological breakdowns, disturbing violence, parental neglect, and physical and sexual abuse. This family's life spun out of control.

Eventually, people in the medical world became aware that here was an opportunity to study in microcosm, a little understood mental health issue, schizophrenia. The Galvin family became one of the first of the large families studied by the National Institute of Mental Health. Doctors looked at the old "nature versus nurture" question, in an effort to better comprehend the symptoms and pathologies of this illness and explore ways to treat or manage it.

From Goodreads: "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."

"Author Robert Kolker uncovers the Galvin family's unforgettable legacy of suffering, love, and hope."

This book will break your heart. You will feel compassion for the parents, never suspecting what awaited their family and absolutely unprepared for the suffering to come, and for all the children, those suffering from the effects of illness, and those left to suffer from the effects of a large family barely coping with the serious illness of so many members.

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