books · family · health

Book Review: Hidden Valley Road – Inside The Mind Of An American Family

By: Robert Kolker

Quite a good book. The author does a great job telling the story of one family with a shocking history of mental illness while also weaving in the challenges of mental disease and the research to find a cure.

The story depicts a young couple just after world war II, starting their lives with all the hopes and dreams of any family. As the family grew to 12 stretching over 20 years between the kids, ten boys and two girls, you see the challenges faced as six children, all boys, have developed schizophrenia—each in their mid to late teens or early adulthood.

The typical thoughts behind mot studies with behavior all focus on nature vs.nurture. This situation was no different, but there was not much to offer for suitable medication or therapy given the time frame. A prevailing thought was the nurture slant with the focus on the mother.

This family did present the largest group of people from one family, all with the same or similar condition that it provided a perfect case study. The Galvin family has been in every study since the first diagnosis and well into the current twenty-first century.

The unfortunate part of this family history shows how the disease affects the people with the disease and the stress and abuse of other family members having to deal with it, from molestation, murder, and suicide. The unfortunate part for the family members diagnosed was a lost life that had been so promising. The drugs used to provide some stability at best proved toxic and fatal.

To this day, there is no cure, but they are getting closer to a better understanding of the disease. Schizophrenia can take several forms and not just one type of diagnosis.

Hidden Valley Road is a great read and gives you a look at the struggle and perseverance of a family coming full circle with their daemons and, in the end, some healing, understanding, and redemption. It does not go heavy into the science, but it makes it easy to follow the timeline, the treatment and medications used, how they evolved, and continue to grow.

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