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Hidden Valley Road

Title: Hidden Valley Road

Author: Robert Kolker

Genre: Biology, Schizophrenia

My poor husband has had to deal with hearing this phrase a lot over the past few days…”Do you want to know something I learned about schizophrenia?” And whether he wanted to learn it or not, I just proceeded to tell him. Because this book is fascinating. It’s not just about this one family, but it’s also about the history of research into the mental illness. All the things doctors have learned about schizophrenia since the early 1900s, which isn’t as much as you’d expect, honestly. Schizophrenia is really complex, and the treatments don’t work well for everyone.

From Goodreads: 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. 

The Galvin story is just so awful. The family really had no idea what to do with the sick boys. But their willingness to help researchers was so important into the discoveries made in the 80s and 90s. Because as the boys were growing up in the 60s and 70s, schizophrenia was so misunderstood. We now know that it’s a genetic illness, assumed to be formed in utero. There’s no longer a nature vs nurture debate. It’s nature. 100%. But isolating the gene has been tough. This book was absolutely fascinating, and I learned so much. If the book had simply been about the family, or simply about the research, it wouldn’t have been as interesting. But having both aspects in the book was perfect. I highly recommend this for anyone interested in the subject.

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books and reading

The Chalk Man

Title: The Chalk Man

Author: CJ Tudor

Genre: thriller, murder mystery

When I read and loved The Burning Girls, I made a point to get Tudor’s other book from my library. You guys, I burned through this book in two days. I absolutely couldn’t put it down. Not only was it a great story, tightly written, interesting characters, etc, it has a ton of Stephen King Easter eggs. He actually tweeted his recommendation of this book, and I imagine him giggling at the eggs as he’s reading. Even without the eggs, the book was excellent.

From Goodreads: In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead.

That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

The story is told from Eddie’s perspective in both past and present, but the chapters are labeled as such, so it’s really easy to follow. Eddie is a great character, flawed but likable, so you still cheer for him. He has a dark side, though, too, probably due to various incidents as a child. Finding out the truth behind the dismembered body was a fun journey. So far, Tudor is two for two in my book. I can’t wait for her next book!

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books and reading

Too Good to Be True

Title: Too Good to Be True

Author: Carola Lovering

Genre: psychological thriller

This book was offered as a Book of the Month offer, and although I selected another book, this one sounded good, so I looked for it at my library. Holy. Smokes. This book is one of the best I’ve read this year. I absolutely loved it. It’s definitely crazy, but in such a fun way. It took turns I wasn’t expecting.

From Goodreads: Skye Starling is overjoyed when her boyfriend, Burke Michaels, proposes after a whirlwind courtship. Though Skye seems to have the world at her fingertips―she’s smart, beautiful, and from a well-off family―she’s also battled crippling OCD ever since her mother’s death when she was eleven, and her romantic relationships have suffered as a result.

But now Burke―handsome, older, and more emotionally mature than any man she’s met before―says he wants her. Forever. Except, Burke isn’t who he claims to be. And interspersed letters to his therapist reveal the truth: he’s happily married, and using Skye for his own, deceptive ends.

In a third perspective, set thirty years earlier, a scrappy seventeen-year-old named Heather is determined to end things with Burke, a local bad boy, and make a better life for herself in New York City. But can her adolescent love stay firmly in her past―or will he find his way into her future?

On a collision course she doesn’t see coming, Skye throws herself into wedding planning, as Burke’s scheme grows ever more twisted. But of course, even the best laid plans can go astray. And just when you think you know where this story is going, you’ll discover that there’s more than one way to spin the truth.

Nuts. This book is nuts. But in the best way possible. I actually shouted “HOLY CRAP” a couple of times when certain plot points were revealed. The story is expertly crafted and the characters jumped right off the page. Whether they were good people or not, they were definitely dynamic. I couldn’t put this book down. I’ve only read a handful of truly great thrillers this year (out of the dozens I’ve read), but I’m happy to say this one will be high on my recommendations.