Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family

Written by:
Robert Kolker
Narrated by:
Sean Pratt

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
April 2020
13 hours 8 minutes
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB PICK • ONE OF GQ's TOP 50 BOOKS OF LITERARY JOURNALISM IN THE 21st CENTURY • The heartrending 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.

'Reads like a medical detective journey and sheds light on a topic so many of us face: mental illness.' —Oprah Winfrey

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 as schizophrenic. 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.
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Candace W.

Such a very interesting book. Quite a story. I especially thought the narrator did a fabulous job.

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Karen S.

Fascinating book on so many levels. A must read if you’re interested in a mental health. A must read if your interested in family dynamics. It’s written so well. I couldn’t put it down.

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Debbie F.

Narrator was easy to listen to. I learned a lot. It was both a human interest story and informative book with good balance between the two.

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As someone who grew up in a household with a schizophrenic brother, this book opened my eyes to many things that were occurring that I did not know about. I also appreciated hearing the youngest daughters’ stories, as my sister and I were the youngest, and my brother was the oldest. There were five of us kids total. My mother also always came to the defense of my schizophrenic brother when I told her what he was doing to us all. She always said I was lying and continues this protection of him to this very day ( she is 85). I am so grateful to hear another person’s experience going through this exact situation, and how attitudes and actions of the healthy siblings changed over time. Lastly, I was thankful for the history regarding the treatment of the illness. I wonder if that played into some of my mother’s decisions in not getting him help. An unexpected eye opener.

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Jen U.

It’s a book I listened to years ago and recently recommend to my book club. It stayed with me. It was a good book for bookclub discussions.

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Danielle L.

well written, fascinating account of how mental illness manifested in a large family

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Stephanie M.

Such a compelling story of a family and the cultural and academic ideals of mental health during the different decades. Beautifully woven together! Loved this book!

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Haifa S.

What a tragic story, but full with emotions. I actually feel smarter because of this book. The educational part i thought was going to be difficult but it was easy to follow and understand. It flowed with the family's story. Thank you to Robert Kolker!

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Carol G.

This was a great book filled with education, mental health historical facts, statistics, and tragedy! Highly recommend this book for anyone interested in mental health. Also, the narrator was easy to listen to with inflections in his voice that made the book that much more interesting.

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Donna M.

I stayed with the book. The story was such a sad and truthful story. The statistics, data and studies were difficult to listen to as I felt I was in a psychology 101 class.

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I can’t even finish this book. I’ve given it 4 hours and can’t take any more.

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Stephanie C.

Definitely feels like fiction but it’s sadly a tragic story of a family plagued by mental illness and shame and secrecy surrounding that .

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Susan P.

Amazing book !!!! Obsessed from the first paragraph and finished it in a couple days. Since I have a family member with mental illness this book was so informative!! Such a fascinating story and really shows how mental illness effects the whole family. Great read , five stars

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