Early in Hidden Valley Road, Robert Kolker observes that, “For a family, schizophrenia is, primarily, a felt experience, as if the foundation of the family is permanently tilted in the direction of the sick family member.” There is no greater testament to the truth of that observation than Don and Mimi Galvin’s twelve children: six of their sons were diagnosed with schizophrenia, starting with their eldest son who was diagnosed in his late teens, by which time five of his brothers were also breaking down. With six family members mentally ill with a disease about which medical opinion shifted every few years, the foundation of the Galvin family didn’t so much tilt as tip over. Kolker does an outstanding job of reportage on all fronts: the chronology of the Galvin boys’ breakdowns, the effects on their parents, and critically, on the siblings who did not become mentally ill, growing up in a household utterly defined, internally and externally, by the mental illness that rampaged through the family. Kolker also deftly weaves the history of diagnosing and treating schizophrenia into the narrative; it’s cold comfort that the Galvin family became “a monumental case study in humanity’s most perplexing disease.” Robert Kolker’s Hidden Valley Road takes an astonishing, heartrending story and elevates it with empathy and superb storytelling.
—Vannessa Cronin, Amazon Book Review