Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family ~ Robert Kolker (2020)


Hidden Valley Road is a non-fiction book that is one part psychology textbook, one part family drama, and one part trauma narrative. Kolker grounds this book, that is ostensibly about schizophrenia, in the Galvin family. The Galvins had 12 children (10 boys and 2 girls), six of whom, all boys – referred to in the book as the Sick Boys – had schizophrenia to varying degrees of functionality.

The first child was born in 1945, and the twelfth was born in 1965. This family turned out to be a critical Petrie dish for researchers to study the effect of nature vs nurture on schizophrenia. Were “refrigerator mothers” to blame, or were genetics? Or maybe both?

This book was a NY Times Bestseller – one of the Top 10 in 2020, and an Oprah’s Book Club selection in 2020. The book really is that good, in that the information is invaluable, and the family story makes it more accessible, however, even as a voracious reader, this book took me weeks to get through. There is so much information, and my comprehension of research jargon is quite low, so I found myself putting the book down and coming back to it.

I recommend Hidden Valley Road (so named after the quiet street that the family lives on) to anyone interested in psychology or medical mysteries. Do no look at it as a light fun read that you can breeze through. Know that this will require time and concentration. But it will be worth it.

(Pgs 340)

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