Hidden Valley Road Book Summary - Hidden Valley Road Book explained in key points
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Hidden Valley Road summary

Robert Kolker

Inside the Mind of an American Family

4.3 (35 ratings)
31 mins

Brief summary

'Hidden Valley Road' by Robert Kolker is a non-fiction book that tells the story of the Galvin family, who provided unprecedented access to researchers studying schizophrenia. The book highlights the impact of mental illness on families, and the importance of research in finding a cure.

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    Hidden Valley Road
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    After moving into a new home on Hidden Valley Road, the first signs of illness appeared in two of the Galvin children.

    In 1963, the Galvins were living in a modern, split-level house on Hidden Valley Road in the Woodmen Valley area, just outside Colorado Springs. Their house was one of the first to be built on a four-mile stretch of dirt road in a neighborhood developed for families of the Air Force Academy.

    The key message in this blink is: After moving into a new home on Hidden Valley Road, the first signs of illness appeared in two of the Galvin children.

    Their new home was just enough room for Mimi, Don, and their 12 kids. They were able to squeeze a massive table with six seats on each side and one on each end into the dining room, and the living room was big enough for the boys to indulge in their wrestling matches, which had become a household feature over the past ten years. 

    Often, these matches would get overheated and turn into real fights, especially between the two oldest boys, Donald and Jim. By the time they moved to Hidden Valley Road, the two brothers had practically become mortal enemies. But this tension was somewhat relieved by Donald heading off to Colorado State University the same year they moved into the new house.

    But something else was going on with Donald and Jim. While Donald was the all-star athlete and seemed intent on making his father proud, Jim had always been a rebel. So, when Jim got expelled from school for sneaking into an Air Force jet and messing around in the cockpit, Mimi and Don brushed it off as regrettable teenage shenanigans.

    They did a similar thing when Donald was 17 years old and violently broke ten dishes while standing in the kitchen. Typical teenage drama, they thought. But things got worse as Donald began his sophomore year at Colorado State. Soon Mimi and Don wouldn’t be able to brush it aside so easily.

    Between September 1964 and the fall of 1965, Donald visited the campus health center four times. First, to treat a mysterious cat bite. The second visit was due to his concerns that he might accidentally catch syphilis from his roommate. The third time he arrived with a back sprain and was told to spend the night in the infirmary. As he explained it, one of his brothers had jumped on him from behind while he was visiting his family. 

    On his fourth visit, Donald arrived with serious burns and clothing that had obviously been on fire. It turned out that Donald had jumped into a bonfire.

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    What is Hidden Valley Road about?

    Hidden Valley Road (2020) tells the remarkable story of the Galvin family of 12 children, half of whom were diagnosed with schizophrenia. Remarkably, the Galvins went on to become one of our best hopes for understanding the biological nature of this often misunderstood mental illness.

    Hidden Valley Road Review

    Hidden Valley Road (2020) is a captivating exploration of a family affected by mental illness and the groundbreaking research that emerged from their experiences. Here's why this book is worth your time:

    • Uncovering the complexity of mental illness, it offers a compassionate and nuanced perspective on a topic that affects countless lives.
    • Based on extensive research and interviews, the book delves into the multi-generational Galvin family, creating a powerful narrative that keeps you enthralled.
    • Revealing the intersection of science and humanity, it sheds light on the quest to understand mental illness, offering hope for future treatments and support.

    Who should read Hidden Valley Road?

    • Anyone interested in a deeper understanding of mental health
    • People curious about the history of schizophrenia
    • Fans of stories about perseverance and overcoming the odds

    About the Author

    Robert Kolker is a best-selling author and investigative journalist whose work has appeared in publications such as New York Magazine and Bloomberg Businessweek. His highly acclaimed book, Lost Girls (2013), about a series of unsolved killings on Long Island, was adapted into a film of the same name released in 2020.

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    Hidden Valley Road FAQs 

    What is the main message of Hidden Valley Road?

    The main message of Hidden Valley Road is the resilience of a family in the face of mental illness.

    How long does it take to read Hidden Valley Road?

    The reading time for Hidden Valley Road varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Hidden Valley Road a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Hidden Valley Road is a captivating read that explores the complexities of mental illness within a family. It offers a unique perspective and valuable insights.

    Who is the author of Hidden Valley Road?

    The author of Hidden Valley Road is Robert Kolker.

    What to read after Hidden Valley Road?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Hidden Valley Road, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • New Cold Wars by David E. Sanger
    • She Has Her Mother’s Laugh by Carl Zimmer
    • The Disordered Mind by Eric R. Kandel
    • Educated by Tara Westover
    • Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
    • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson