Hidden Valley Road

Inside the Mind of an American Family

Hardcover, 377 pages

English language

Published May 11, 2020 by Random House Large Print.


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5 stars (3 reviews)

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.

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 …

3 editions

Review of 'Hidden Valley Road' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

This is a fascinating but rough read. The trials that this family goes through are not easy to stomach, but it is a fantastically empathetic window into the experience of growing up around mental illness, particularly at a time when it was even less understood than it is now. The story is largely woven together via anecdotes and documents from the members of the Galvin family that were never diagnosed with mental illness, so it doesn't provide as much of a window into the mind of those experiencing schizophrenia (or, in one case, bipolar disorder), which feels like a missed a opportunity, but an understandable one, given that many of the still living brothers had been institutionalized and heavily medicated for decades by the time this author found them, making parsing their experiences incredibly challenging.

Additionally, there are some really interesting insights into how institutional misogyny, ableism and a touch …

tough to read & amazing

5 stars

I’m giving this a rare 5-star review because there’s no real criticism I have for it - it’s stunningly written, immersive and horrifying but ultimately hopeful. It is undoubtedly triggering for anyone with familial mental illness, and it can be too much at times. That said, it’s an incredible, fascinating book and I’m glad I picked it up.

avatar for emily_rj

rated it

5 stars


  • Nonfiction
  • Biography
  • Science
  • Medicine
  • Schizophrenia