The Galvins wanted a big family, social status and a stimulating life, but when six of their twelve children develop schizophrenia, their world descends into violence, hospitalizations, medical uncertainty, and long-hidden abuse. Kolker examines each member of this troubled family and their connection to the decades-long endeavor by the scientific community to understand the nature of schizophrenia. Any reader who loves nonfiction that reads like fiction won't be able to put this down.
This is the story of the American Dream gone awry. Don and Mimi Gilbert want only the best for their 12 children. But in adolescence their eldest, golden son begins exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia, and it’s only a matter of time before several of his brother’s follow suit. Fascinating and heart-wrenching, Kolker’s interviews with the family and his research on the topic illustrate just how little is understood about an illness that afflicts so many.
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OPRAH'S BOOK CLUB PICK#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER The heartrending story of a midcentury American family with twelve children, six of them diagnosed with schizophrenia, that became science's great hope in the quest to understand the disease.
Reads like a medical detective journey and sheds light on a topic so many of us face: mental illness. --Oprah Winfrey
Named a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by The New York Times
, The Washington Post,
Don and Mimi Galvin seemed to be living the American dream. After World War II, Don's work with the Air Force brought them to Colorado, where their twelve children perfectly spanned the baby boom: the oldest born in 1945, the youngest in 1965. In those years, there was an established script for a family like the Galvins--aspiration, hard work, upward mobility, domestic harmony--and they worked hard to play their parts. But behind the scenes was a different story: psychological breakdown, sudden shocking violence, hidden abuse. By the mid-1970s, six of the ten Galvin boys, one after another, were diagnosed as schizophrenic. How could all this happen to one family?
What took place inside the house on Hidden Valley Road was so extraordinary that the Galvins became one of the first families to be studied by the National Institute of Mental Health. Their story offers a shadow history of the science of schizophrenia, from the era of institutionalization, lobotomy, and the schizophrenogenic mother to the search for genetic markers for the disease, always amid profound disagreements about the nature of the illness itself. And unbeknownst to the Galvins, samples of their DNA informed decades of genetic research that continues today, offering paths to treatment, prediction, and even eradication of the disease for future generations.
With clarity and compassion, bestselling and award-winning author Robert Kolker uncovers one family's unforgettable legacy of suffering, love, and hope.