Recommended reading: ‘Hidden Valley Road’

It’s a revelation in narrative nonfiction.


Award-winning investigative reporter Robert Kolker’s followup to 2013’s “Lost Girls” is a heartbreaking, hard-to-put-down dive into the mind of an American family.

“Hidden Valley Road” follows hardworking, all-American military couple Mimi and Don Galvin. One after the other, six of their 12 children are diagnosed with schizophrenia, as the remaining children stand by, terrified of their surroundings as well as their own potential diagnoses.

Kolker pays special attention to the two youngest children, also the only girls — Lindsay and Margaret — and how they survived a household of 10 brothers, mental illness, violence and hidden abuse.

Schizophrenia affected each child differently, and the Galvins’ DNA provided data that aided research and insight into effective treatment of the elusive mental disorder.

Kolker expertly weaves the family’s history with that of schizophrenia research in the U.S.


And, he impressively sidesteps the creative nonfiction trap, as “Hidden Valley Road” is based on hundreds of hours of interviews, service records, diaries, personal correspondence and more. No scenes have been invented, no quotes created — ranking it high on this journalist’s list of nonfiction.

Kolker paints the hardships of the Galvin history with their hard-fought hope. It’s a revelation in narrative nonfiction.

Title: “Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family”

Author: Robert Kolker

Publisher: Doubleday

Pages: 400


Melinda Lavine mugshot with wings.jpg
Melinda Lavine is a features reporter for the News Tribune. Write to her at

Related Topics: BOOKS
Melinda Lavine is an award-winning, multidisciplinary journalist with 16 years professional experience. She joined the Duluth News Tribune in 2014, and today, she writes about the heartbeat of our community: the people.

Melinda grew up in central North Dakota, a first-generation American and the daughter of a military dad.

She earned bachelors degrees in English and Communications from the University of North Dakota in 2006, and started her career at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald that summer. She helped launch the Herald's features section, as the editor, before moving north to do the same at the DNT.

Contact her: 218-723-5346,
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