Praise for Hidden Valley Road
“Hidden Valley Road raises the bar on what is possible in narrative nonfiction. A marvel of reportage, research, and style, Robert Kolker dives into the exceptional story of one family besieged by humanity’s most mysterious malady. Kolker writes about the Galvin family with elegance and insight while weaving together the decades-long quest to understand the genetics of schizophrenia, somehow creating a story that is as haunting and intriguing as a great gothic novel. This book is a triumph, an unforgettable story that you should read right now.”
“An extraordinary case study and tour de force of reporting.”
“This book tore my heart out. It is a revelation—about the history of mental health treatment, about trauma, foremost about family—and a more-than-worthy follow-up to Robert Kolker’s brilliant Lost Girls.”
“This broad-ranging, highly readable, and deeply unsettling book tells the story of a family beset with schizophrenia, and in doing so provides meaningful insights into the devastation caused by the disease. It is, equally, a study of the multiple ways in which familial denial can exacerbate the inherent pain of mental illness, and of the courage required both of those who are themselves diagnosed with it and of those who choose to help and support them.”
“A powerful look at schizophrenia and the quest to understand it…. A taut and often heartbreaking narrative…. Haunting and memorable.”
“Kolker tackles this extraordinarily complex story so brilliantly and effectively that readers will be swept away. An exceptional, unforgettable, and significant work that must not be missed.”
One family’s history reveals the mystery of schizophrenia. In a riveting and disquieting narrative, Kolker (Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery, 2013) interweaves a biography of the Galvin family with a chronicle of medicine’s treatment of, and research into, schizophrenia…. Kolker deftly follows the psychiatric, chemical, and biological theories proposed to explain schizophrenia and the various treatments foisted upon the brothers. Most poignantly, he portrays the impact on the unafflicted children of the brothers’ illness, an oppressive emotional atmosphere, and the family’s festering secrets. By the 1980s, the Galvins became subjects of researchers investigating a genetic basis for the illness; those extensive medical records inform this compelling tale. A family portrait of astounding depth and empathy.
“The Galvin family comes alive in Kolker’s eloquent telling…. Kolker masterfully combines scientific intrigue with biographical sketches, allowing readers to feel as if they are right there with the Galvins as researchers examine their genes in the quest for answers.”
Kolker’s subject, the Galvins, were extraordinary: Six of their 12 children received a diagnosis of schizophrenia, giving scientists hope in the 1970s that the family could help unlock their understanding of the disease. Kolker tells their story with compassion and care, and outlines their enduring legacy in the world of mental illness research.
“Hidden Valley Road offers a combination of two things that are often in short supply in storytelling about schizophrenia—rigorous research and deep compassion for all involved. In clear and insightful prose, Kolker spins an utterly absorbing tale of one family grappling with the profound personal costs of the illness, alongside a scientific history of an America largely at sea about how to conceive of schizophrenia or to help those who live with it. In a narrative that is at once gripping and humane, Kolker offers a nuanced consideration of schizophrenia’s many complexities, telling an ultimately hopeful story of one family’s small victories and the slow progress of research that may someday benefit millions.”