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A Family in Chaos

By Diane Cole

July/August 2020


Review: Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family. By Robert Kolker. Doubleday. 377 pages. 

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Once upon a time, not so long ago, there lived a family with 12 children, evenly divided by severe psychiatric illness: six grew into adults afflicted with schizophrenia, while six did not. Yet they all suffered from a twisted family web of trauma and abuse, fed by denial, secrecy, and a willful parental blindness that many would call neglect. But while their saga is devastating, in its portrait of the grim legacy of family dysfunction, it offers a hopeful view of the power of resilience. That is the reason to read Robert Kolker’s forceful, empathic, and riveting chronicle, Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family.

Meet the Galvins—all 14 of them, starting with parents Don and Mimi, and their 12 offspring, born one after another starting in 1945 and ending in 1965. In 1963, when they moved into a newly built, split-level, suburban home just outside Colorado Springs, they presented themselves to the world as a slightly expanded version of a 1950s domestic TV comedy, centering on a bevy of bright, well-behaved kids. If anything made the family stick out (other than its size), it was the family passion for falconry—domesticating and training feral birds for hunting. When Frederica, the…

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Topic: Families | Trauma

Tags: schizophrenia


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