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In 2020 bestseller, journalist tracks American family plunged into schizophrenia

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By all outward appearances, the Galvins seemed to be an ordinary, albeit exceptionally large, family. Parents Don and Mimi met in New York and married toward the end of World War II. Don built a career in the military, and the couple eventually settled in Colorado Springs, Colorado, site of the US Air Force Academy.

Between 1945 and 1965, the Catholic Galvin couple had 12 children: 10 boys and then two girls. They were a good looking and athletic bunch, with the boys letting out their (oft-times violent) energy at home, as well as on the football field or hockey ice.

Life at the Galvin home moved along relatively normally… until it didn’t. First, eldest son Donald, Jr. was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a young adult. Then, like dominoes, five of his brothers also succumbed to psychosis. Astoundingly, half of the Galvin children were diagnosed with schizophrenia, arguably the least understood and most stigmatized type of mental illness.

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Compounding the family’s pain and suffering, the second eldest son Jim sexually abused his young sisters for years — something that only came to light years later. ‘Hidden Valley Road’ by Robert Kolker (Doubleday)

Award-winning journalist Robert Kolker knew nothing about the nature of mental illness, but beginning in 2016 he took a deep dive into the subject to write “Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family,” one of 2020’s bestselling and most critically acclaimed non-fiction books, according to The New York Times. Kolker traces in fascinating detail both the heartbreaking story of the Galvin family, and the evolving history of the understanding and treatment of schizophrenia over the last century.

The Galvins, having enrolled in academic studies, are themselves playing an important part in advancing research into the disease.

Kolker, who grew up in the Jewish community of Columbia, Maryland, first heard of this most unusual brood when sisters Margaret Galvin Johnson and Lindsay (née Mary) Galvin Rauch approached him about writing their family saga. Enough time had passed since the most traumatic events in the family’s life for the sisters and their surviving brothers to share their experiences in hopes that they could help others. Father Don was deceased, but octogenarian mother Mimi was still alive and time was running out for her to tell her side of the story, especially now that recent genetic research had disproved earlier theories that her parenting style had caused her boys’ mental illness. Robert Kolker (Jeff Zorabedian

Kolker quotes Mimi, who ran a tight ship and was emotionally reserved:........

© The Times of Israel

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