Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family

I’m pleased to announce my new book, coming from Doubleday on April 7, 2020, and available for pre-order now:

The extraordinary story of a midcentury American family with twelve children, six of them diagnosed with schizophrenia, that became science’s great hope in the quest to understand the disease.

Don and Mimi Galvin seemed to be living the American dream. After World War II, Don’s work with the Air Force brought them to Colorado, where their twelve children perfectly spanned the baby boom: the oldest born in 1945, the youngest in 1965. In those years, there was an established script for a family like the Galvins–aspiration, hard work, upward mobility, domestic harmony–and they worked hard to play their parts. But behind the scenes was a different story: psychological breakdown, sudden shocking violence, hidden abuse. By the mid-1970s, six of the ten Galvin boys, one after another, were diagnosed with schizophrenia. How could all this happen to one family?
     What took place inside the house on Hidden Valley Road was so extraordinary that the Galvins became one of the first families to be studied by the National Institute of Mental Health. 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.
     With clarity and compassion, bestselling and award-winning author Robert Kolker uncovers one family’s unforgettable legacy of suffering, love, and hope.

ADVANCE 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.”
—Susannah Cahalan, author of Brain on Fire and The Great Pretender
 
“An extraordinary case study and tour de force of reporting.”
—Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind
 
“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.”
—Andrew Solomon, author of Far From the Tree

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.”
—Marin Sardy, author of The Edge of Every Day

CLICK HERE TO PRE-ORDER NOW