Praise for Hidden Valley Road

Time magazine

“Even if just one child has schizophrenia, everything about the internal logic of that family changes,” journalist Robert Kolker writes in his bestselling book, which traces the plight of a Colorado-based family devastated by the mental disorder. By the mid-1970s, six of the 12 Galvin children had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Kolker traces the family’s suffering in Hidden Valley Road, which focuses on how the Galvins were studied to help better understand the disease. Though so much of the story is rooted in tragedy — abuse, violence, death — Kolker’s voice remains empathetic as he balances breaking down the science behind schizophrenia and describing the gutting details of one family’s unthinkable circumstances.

The Best Books of 2020 So Far,” May 30, 2020

Oprah Winfrey

Hidden Valley Road is an extraordinary scientific detective story and family saga, and it sheds light on a topic too many of us face: mental illness. Robert Kolker ushers us into the world of the Galvin family in a very intimate way. Reading their story shows us the way secrets and dysfunction fester—and how families ultimately survive and endure.”

Oprah’s Book Club, April 2020 selection

Sam Dolnick, The New York Times Book Review

“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.”

Good Looks Ran in the Family. So Did Schizophrenia,” April 3, 2020

Hamilton Cain, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Drawing on untapped archives and extensive interviews with the surviving Galvins, Kolker gives us a tale like no other. As he writes in the book’s conclusion, ‘To be a member of the Galvin family is to never stop tripping on land mines of family history, buried in odd places, stashed away out of shame.’ Hidden Valley Road is destined to become a classic of narrative nonfiction.”

The true story of one Colorado family’s ordeal with schizophrenia,” April 3, 2020

Richard J. McNally, The Wall Street Journal

“[Robert] Kolker’s riveting, compassionate “Hidden Valley Road” tells the story of a family besieged by devastating mental illness. The author is a tireless journalist whose last book, Lost Girls, took readers into the lives of five murdered Long Island sex workers. For this account, he spent three years getting to know the Galvins, interviewing all the surviving members (including the six children who never became psychotic) as well as doctors and experts with firsthand knowledge of their tragedy. With the skill of a great novelist, Mr. Kolker brings every member of the family to life.”

Young Men Touched by Madness,” April 3, 2020

Kate Saunders, The Times of London

“Robert Kolker tells the sensational story of the Galvins, with great compassion and an admirable lack of sensationalism…. Kolker is a fine writer and a first-class investigative journalist….This unforgettable book will surely increase people’s understanding of a terrifying disorder.”

Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic

“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.”

What Causes Schizophrenia? In Robert Kolker’s ‘Hidden Valley Road,’ a family tragedy illuminates the mysterious origins of an illness,” April 14, 2020

Karen Iris Tucker, The Washington Post

“Kolker’s telling of the Galvin trials is at once deeply compassionate and chilling. He gives as much voice to the schizophrenic siblings — who, one after another, had psychotic breaks, were heavily medicated with debilitating drugs, and were in and out of largely unsuccessful inpatient treatment — as he does to their relatives, many of whom suffered tremendous psychological and sexual abuse from being in their orbit. Interwoven with the harrowing familial story is the history of how the science on schizophrenia has fitfully evolved, from the eras of institutionalization and shock therapy, to the profound disagreements about the cause and origins of the illness, to the search for genetic markers for the disease. Along that path, Kolker notes, “families like the Galvins, meanwhile, continued to live at the mercy of a mental health profession still caught up in a debate that came nowhere close to helping them.”

The turbulent lives of six brothers with schizophrenia,” April 7, 2020

Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times

“Kolker’s previous book, Lost Girls, traced the lives of five murdered women on Long Island and told a story of sex work and law enforcement during a time of technological change. His new book is a comparable 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.”

The Suffering and Scientific Legacy of a Large Family Consumed by Schizophrenia,” March 30, 2020

David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon

Hidden Valley Road contains everything: scientific intrigue, meticulous reporting, startling revelations, and, most of all, a profound sense of humanity. It is that rare book that can be read again and again.”