Don and Mimi Galvin married near the end of World War II, soon after he joined the Navy. He later resigned his commission, signed up with the Air Force and moved his family to Hidden Valley Road in Colorado Springs. They went on to have twelve children (ten boys and two girls), the picture of the ideal American family, or so it seemed to those looking in from the outside. But inside they were living a nightmare. Six of their boys were ultimately diagnosed as schizophrenic. The turmoil and violence inside their home belied the idyllic image they fought hard to uphold. In the meantime, the procession of doctors, psychologists and therapists did little to provide respite as so little was known about the condition.
This was such a heartbreaking story. Don and Mimi had such high hopes and dreams for their family. Don was the dreamer and visionary, Mimi the taskmaster and disciplinarian that made everything work. And she was the one left to manage what was happening to her children. I found their phenomena both fascinating and frustrating, especially since the early diagnoses turned the blame on the mother. Equally frustrating was how little investment was devoted to research by institutions to schizophrenia even when there were so many afflicted and not a lot of progress has been made over the decades.
This story explores not only the Galvin children but Don and Mimi’s family history. It was insightful as it provided context for the speculation that the affliction was somehow as a result of nurture. The scientific analyses were highly interesting and you don’t need a psychology background to follow it. I appreciate how it was described in mostly laymen terms and I was able to keep up. To have so many children in the same family present with schizophrenia was a research opportunity and failure because this appeared to be a unique factor. Told in alternating timelines and through the lens of many of the family members and researchers, this story doesn’t offer neat solutions or endings but does provide a powerful view of how mental illness can affect so many lives in a family. I think it was incredibly brave of this family to allow access into what can only be described as a painful life in the hope that it will tear down the walls of secrecy surrounding mental illness. I’m glad I chose to listen to the story as the narrator eliminated the drama and told a difficult story in a way that made it easier to digest. He was excellent.
- Release Date: April 7, 2020
- Narrator: Sean Pratt
- Audio Length: 13 hours, 9 minutes
- Publisher: Random House Audio
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(Thanks to Penguin Random House Audio for my complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.)