One of my favorite kinds of books is non-fiction books that read like fiction. I felt that way with The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Educated, and Brain on Fire, to name a few. Now I get to add Hidden Valley Road to that list.
The book follows the Galvin family, who want nothing more than to be the perfect American family. In the 1950’s, that meant polished and proper with closets free of skeletons. Their first of 12 (yes 12) children was born in 1945 and their last in 1965.
Over the years half of the Galvin kids started exhibiting unusual behavior, which was later diagnosed schizophrenia for most.
What I love about this book is it not only follows the Galvin family, but also the research of mental health. It was fascinating to know what was happening as the Galvin kids were growing up, and how their experiences aided research.
This was an incredibly interesting read, and heartbreaking at many points. Though there are 12 children and two parents to keep track of, author Robert Kolker does an excellent job of guiding the reader. By the end of the book I could (mostly) name each Galvin family member and a little about each of them. I read it on Kindle, but if you, like me, struggle with keeping characters straight in books, a hard copy might be helpful for flipping back and forth. I did okay and didn’t feel like I lost anything, but it would have been helpful to be able to reference back.
If you’re interested in mental health, research, and family dynamics, pick up this book.
If you’re still not sure, this piece by NPR is what got me interested in the first place.