NEW YORK — Oprah Winfrey’s new book club pick is Robert Kolker’s “Hidden Valley Road,” an in-depth account of a 1950s family in which six of 12 children were diagnosed with schizophrenia. Winfrey says she will continue picking books during the coronavirus outbreak, and will seek new ways to engage readers.
In announcing her choice Tuesday, Winfrey called “Hidden Valley Road” a “a riveting true story of an American family that reads like a medical detective journey. It reveals the shame, denial, shock, confusion and misunderstanding of mental illness at a time when no one was really sure what schizophrenia was or how to treat it.”
“Hidden Valley Road,” tells the story of the Galvins, an attractive, high-achieving Colorado family that was devastated by the illness. Kolker learned about them four years ago through a mutual friend and received extensive cooperation, speaking with nine of the siblings and their mother, and also drawing upon family letters, diaries and medical records.
In a review that ran last weekend in The New York Times, Sam Dolnick praised Kolker as a gifted storyteller and “a restrained and unshowy writer who is able to effectively set a mood.” Kolker has written for New York magazine and Bloomberg and is the author of “Lost Girls,” which has been adapted into a Netflix film starring Amy Ryan.
Kolker’s new book, released this week, is Winfrey’s fourth selection since starting a partnership with Apple last fall. She usually tapes a live appearance with the author that runs on Apple TV Plus. Because of the coronavirus, she will interview Kolker and Galvin family members remotely for a program expected to air in May.
Winfrey spoke to The Associated Press recently from her home in Santa Barbara, California, where she has been sheltering in place since early March, She said she had chosen “Hidden Valley Road” before the virus became widespread, but says it’s even timelier now, because of its story of a baffling and horrifying illness. She was also personally drawn to the narrative, explaining that a young student from the school she runs in South Africa has three siblings diagnosed with schizophrenia.