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Robert Kolker Discusses ‘Hidden Valley Road’

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Robert Kolker’s new book, “Hidden Valley Road,” tells the terrifying story of the Galvins, a large family beset by schizophrenia — six of its 12 children were afflicted with the disease. Among the many fascinating elements of the story, Kolker says on this week’s podcast, is the fate of the family’s two daughers, neither of whom had the disease, and their desire for Kolker to tell the Galvins’ story.

“Beyond the question of how could all this happen to just one family, the real driving question for me in writing the book was: You could’ve walked away from this family at the age of 18, moved to L.A., gone to law school, become a lawyer, sent them Christmas cards once a year and be done with it,” Kolker says of the daughters. “And yet here you are, still part of the mix, still part of this family, still devoted to them in many ways. How does that work? How does that help us understand what it means to go through such trauma? What does it mean to come out the other side of an experience like this? And how did you come out the other side?”

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Elisabeth Egan, an editor at the Book Review, visits the podcast this week to discuss Lily King’s “Writers & Lovers,” a recent pick for Group Text, a monthly column for readers and book clubs. King’s novel is about Casey Peabody, a 31-year-old aspiring writer who works at a restaurant and is grieving for her recently deceased mother.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that you can come of age several times in your life,” Egan says. “When we talk about a coming-of-age novel, people always think of adolescence. To me, it’s always interesting to see a person coming of age at an age when you think they might already be an adult. And I think Casey Peabody is one of those people. It’s the idea of: When in life are you fully baked? And to me, the most interesting people are never fully baked.”

Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and Dwight Garner and Jennifer Szalai talk about their recent reviews. Pamela Paul is the host.

Here are the books discussed by The Times’s critics this week:

We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected].


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