Wednesday, June 03, 2020
First Wednesday Book Review: Hidden Valley Road
Robert Kolker follows up his investigation of disappearances on Long Island (Lost Girls) with another riveting story. Hidden Valley Road examines the Galvin family of Colorado. Mimi Galvin gave birth to twelve children over a twenty-year period. Ten boys were followed by two girls. They were a family that seemed to flourish and shine in their community until the boys hit their teen years and, over time, six of the ten boys exhibited signs of mental illness.
When the boys first showed signs of schizophrenia, (1960) it was in an era when a cold mother was blamed for the condition. Donald, the oldest, would spend the rest of his life in and out of mental hospitals. This would also be the fate of five of his brothers, two of whom died of related issues.
Kolker has done a terrific job of incorporating the research and treatment of this mental illness over the last half century with the story of the Galvin family. Although it's clear the parents made mistakes in their handling of the boys, it was genetics that really explained the ailment. Brain studies of the afflicted compared to the more normal children showed stark differences.
And the information culled from this family is being used (much as what happened with Henrietta Lacks) to fuel further research into the illness. When I heard Kolker interviewed by a bookstore via zoom, many of the family members called in, supporting his attempt to tell their story and to give it value. It has to be of some comfort to them.
For more reviews, visit Barrie Summy