Hidden Valley Road

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family

This book is utterly astounding.

Turns out book sales are down in the Covid-19 era. Digital more than physical. Seems inexplicable to me, then again, readers are a subset of the public, which may explain the adherence to the physical. However, those who do not embrace the future are left out when the screw turns. But that’s all of America today. We love our tech, we love its cheap prices, but when we no longer have jobs that can pay for them, we’re flummoxed. The future keeps rolling down the track, be prepared for it.

But some things you can’t prepare for.

We live in a world where we believe everything can be fixed, where if everybody just lifted themselves up by their bootstraps, we’d all be okay.

Not if you have schizophrenia.

But that’s about a third of “Hidden Valley Road.” The search for cures to the disease. Actually, they don’t even want to call it that anymore, they want to talk about a “spectrum,” and they’re still arguing how much is nature and how much is nurture. At this late date it’s agreed that nature is a huge component, but can patients be improved by psychotherapy?

We live in a world where mental illness is seen as something akin to leprosy. An exotic taboo that you must not get close to for fear you’ll be infected too. But at least you can see leprosy, mental illness is hidden.

Well, not always. The Galvin boys act in bizarre ways and do bizarre things and they’re not always harmless.

This is a baby boomer story. If you were born in that era, you’ll relate to that setting. Mothers did not work outside the home. Fathers worked for the man and were moving up in their careers. And you didn’t need a chaperone to play outside the house. It was all dreamy, a simpler time.

Don Galvin was in the Air Force. He moved the family to Colorado Springs. And then…

Six out of his twelve children got schizophrenia.

The mother, Mimi, alternately blamed herself and her husband’s genes whilst doing her best to take care of these ill children.

Meanwhile, there were so many children…there was a pecking order, and violence, which the parents were unaware of. And as far as a stabilizing force, Don was oftentimes on the road.

So you’re living a charmed life.

As for the twelve children… Yes, the Galvins are Catholic. But it was also a time when you could take care of this many kids on one salary.

So everything is going swimmingly until the oldest boy goes to college and…

Goes off the rails.

And then it happens again and again. Not only with him, but his brothers.

The scientific advancement is interesting. But it’s the family and its dynamics that are fascinating. These are the stories that intrigue me, that I’m drawn to. What exactly is happening amongst all the people in the family?

Some are ignored. Some play hockey. Some are abused.

Meanwhile, it’s the sixties and music is dominant, such that some Galvins start playing for a living. It was a different era. Where there was less income inequality. You could make it as a music teacher. Sure, college helped, but you did not need to have a degree to become a receptionist.

And the father has relationships that enable the girls, there are two of them, they’re the last born, to escape the household. But they’re still traumatized, for their entire lives, by what happened back in Colorado Springs.

Meanwhile, the sick brothers are alternately zombies and out of control. In and out of mental hospitals. Men, who could hurt you.

As for the professionals… There’s always a new theory. You’re looking for answers, so you have hope. Even though some leads are scams. You end up just taking your own counsel, accepting this is the way it is, going through the motions so you don’t fall apart.

I guess everything today is about reality. Even though it’s faked. We want it visceral, right there on the flat screen. Or we want cartoons on the big screen, both animated and real life.

But we are living real life all day long. Where do we go to be understood, to be accepted.

You’ll see yourself in this book. Do you want to dive in, or pull yourself out. Can you let go of the past. Do you think you can fix people.

But this is not an everyday story.

You think everything is going just fine, and then there’s a left turn. All around you people are marching forward, but you’re lost. Happens to all of us, rich and poor. You have a financial setback. Your relationship ends. You have health issues. Meanwhile, you’re having to make decisions all the time…are you practical or do you go by your gut? And really, you’re in control, you’re the only one who cares, it’s overwhelming.

But “Hidden Valley Road” is really not about your life, about you relating, but the story of this family, the Galvins.

Now this is a big best seller. You can order it from Amazon, or dial up your local bookstore for curbside delivery. Or you can download a Kindle copy. Or, you can wait for it to be available at the library, good luck!

Everybody’s willing to spend fifteen dollars on a movie, but a book? That’s too much!

Which is one of the reasons why Amazon wanted to lower the price on digital books.

“Hidden Valley Road” is available right now, it’s just a click away.

I try to avoid non-fiction. Oftentimes it’s too dry. I’m truly looking for real life and too often I get facts, but no story, no emotion.

“Hidden Valley Road” is better than all the vaunted fiction from the writing factories. It’s not self-conscious. It’s not about flowery prose that distracts from the story. It’s a winding road that you can’t stop driving down.

It’s not hard to get into. But when you stick with it, you become engrossed, you’re constantly wanting to go back to it, to its world.

The girls are still alive. They’re still functioning just like you and me. We all have to make a life, they made theirs, as did their three uninfected brothers, even though they all were worried they would get it, and experienced guilt when they did not. This story starts long ago, but it’s positively up-to-date. Sure, it’ll make you think about mental illness, but even more it’ll make you think about yourself, wowing you all the time with its twists and turns.

You may see the scientific chapters as Tolstoy’s philosophizing in “Anna Karenina.” Roll through them, you do not have to catch every word.

“Anna Karenina” is the best book ever written. “Hidden Valley Road” is not quite that good, but like “Anna Karenina” it’s focused on people.

And that’s all we’ve got, that’s all we are.

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