Media Appearances for Hidden Valley Road and Robert Kolker
“I was surprised to learn many things when researching the Galvin family’s story and the history of mental illness treatment. My first surprise was that there has been no significant advancement in the development of new pharmaceutical treatments of psychosis since the development of Thorazine and clozapine more than fifty years ago. Add to that the fact that even after all this time, no one really knows exactly how or why those medicines work.
“Then there is the amazing amount of groupthink and tunnel vision that has polluted the fields of psychiatry and psychotherapy for generations. And the sad fact that even after all this time, despite major advancements in treating bipolar disorder and depression and other illnesses, no one can still agree on exactly what schizophrenia is….”
“Hidden Valley Road Looks Inside Mental Illness,” Authorlink, Oct. 1, 2020
Kolker expertly weaves the Galvins’ story with the history of schizophrenia. And what a horrible history it is. In the 1930s, for example, and in some cases even later, treatment included injections of animal blood, lobotomy and even sterilisation.
The family’s genetic material has been the subject of numerous studies. They are the perfect sample. According to one psychiatrist, they are potentially ‘the most mentally ill family in America’.
By studying the Galvins’ DNA and comparing it with that of the general population, scientists are making steps towards understanding how to treat, predict and even prevent schizophrenia.
It is a slippery illness, however: difficult to diagnose, even harder to treat, and with little consensus about what causes it, or even exactly what it is.
“Was this the most disturbed family in America?” May 15, 2020
Robert Kolker’s first book, Lost Girls, is a heartbreaking and methodical account of women whose bodies were found on an isolated Long Island beach. It’s a true-crime book, but one where the violence is not the point. There is a tremendous amount of heart in Kolker’s writing and reporting: he makes you care about the people whose lives are destroyed by violence.
In his new book, Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family (Random House Canada), Kolker takes on a difficult subject and once again infuses it with heart and analyzes it with his characteristic perspicuity. The book revolves around the Galvin family of Colorado. Don Galvin, a rising star in the Air Force, and his wife, Mimi, a dedicated homemaker, had twelve children starting in 1945. Then, tragedy began to dismember the Galvin family, and six of the Galvins’s sons were diagnosed with schizophrenia. The compassion Kolker brought to Lost Girls is also evident here, now an Oprah’s Book Club pick, which is a penetrating story about how mental illness affects families….
About 3.2 million Americans have the brain disorder schizophrenia, but about 40 percent of schizophrenics go undiagnosed. That was the case for many of Mimi and Don Galvin’s sons: six of 12 siblings whose story is the subject of Robert Kolker’s compelling narrative, “Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family.”
Kolker embeds their shocking and poignant family story into the ongoing scientific quest to understand how schizophrenia works and how to treat its victims. “Hidden Valley Road” is author Robert Kolker’s second book, and it’s our May selection for “Bookmarked: The Under the Radar Book Club.”
“Book Club: Robert Kolker’s ‘Hidden Valley Road’,” May 1, 2020
“I love writing about families and people who never imagined they’d be in the news, as opposed to interviewing public figures,” says Kolker by phone from his Brooklyn home. “I’ve always wanted to tell a family story. This one seemed complicated and sad. My hope was to find the hope in the story, and to make it relatable by getting to know the people better and have their personalities be the entry point for people.”
“I took a year before even sending out a book proposal to speak one-on-one with each living member of the Galvin family, including the three surviving mentally ill brothers. I wanted to be sure that everyone in the family was ready to talk about everything that had happened to them.”
“A Saga of Schizophrenia: PW Talks with Robert Kolker,” February 21, 2020
“Best-selling author Robert Kolker joins “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King to discuss his new book, “Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family.” The book is a true story about a family of 12, and how their experience with mental illness helped transform the research in mental health. Kolker also shares his reaction to learning Oprah Winfrey announced it as a rare non-fiction selection for her Oprah’s Book Club.”
Robert Kolker, the New York Times bestselling author of Lost Girls, talks to Carol Fitzgerald about his new book Hidden Valley Road, which follows the true story of a large family upended by acute schizophrenia in the 1960’s and 1970’s. At that time, the family hid any suspicion of their abnormal lives, but under the curtain was a history of psychological breakdowns, sudden violence, and abuse. In their conversation, Robert highlights the reception his book received from the Galvin siblings as well as the clear message that mental illness like this is not something industries are willing to solve anytime soon.
“Bookreporter Talks To Robert Kolker,” April 10, 2020
“No one has to be told how sensitive a subject mental illness can be — how those of us who have it in our lives often find it too painful to discuss with other people. But this family was ready. Every single surviving Galvin family member was interviewed for Hidden Valley Road, which Doubleday is publishing this week. I had free rein to follow this story wherever it led.”
“What It Was Like to Report on a Family Plagued by Schizophrenia,” April 7, 2020