Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Reading Wrap Up: June 2021

READING WRAP UP
(books not listed on book club and challenge posts)
Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family
by Robert Kolker
Biography, Mental Health | Published: 2020 | Goodreads | my rating: 5

The heartrending story of a midcentury American family with twelve children, six of them diagnosed with schizophrenia, that became science's great hope in the quest to understand the disease.

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.


Fascinating. Sad but hopeful. Glad they shared their story.

Things We Lost to the Water
by Eric Nguyen
Historical, LGBTQ, Vietnamese American | Published: May 4, 2021 | Goodreads | my rating: 4

When Huong arrives in New Orleans with her two young sons, she is jobless, homeless, and worried about her husband, Cong, who remains in Vietnam. As she and her boys begin to settle in to life in America, she continues to send letters and tapes back to Cong, hopeful that they will be reunited and her children will grow up with a father.

But with time, Huong realizes she will never see her husband again. While she copes with this loss, her sons, Tuan and Binh grow up in their absent father's shadow, haunted by a man and a country trapped in their memory and imagination. As they push forward, the three adapt to life in America in different ways: Huong takes up with a Vietnamese car salesman who is also new in town; Tuan tries to connect with his heritage by joining a local Vietnamese gang; and Binh, now going by Ben, embraces his adopted homeland and his burgeoning sexuality. Their search for identity--as individuals and as a family--threatens to tear them apart. But then disaster strikes the city they now call home, and they must find a new way to come together and honor the ties that bind them.


Immigrant experience, hard decisions (consequences) and struggles from Asian perspectives.

Where the Grass Is Green and the Girls Are Pretty
by Lauren Weisberger
ChickLit, ARC | Published: May 18, 2021 | Goodreads | my rating: 4

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Devil Wears Prada and When Life Gives You Lululemons comes a highly entertaining, sharply observed novel about sisters, their perfect lives . . . and their perfect lies.

A seat at the anchor desk of the most-watched morning show. Recognized by millions across the country, thanks in part to her flawless blond highlights and Botox-smoothed skin. An adoring husband and a Princeton-bound daughter. Peyton is that woman. She has it all.

Until . . .

Skye, her sister, is a stay-at-home mom living in a glitzy suburb of New York. She has degrees from all the right schools and can helicopter-parent with the best of them. But Skye is different from the rest. She’s looking for something real and dreams of a life beyond the PTA and pickup.

Until . . .

Max, Peyton’s bright and quirky seventeen-year-old daughter, is poised to kiss her fancy private school goodbye and head off to pursue her dreams in film. She’s waited her entire life for this opportunity.

Until . . .

One little lie. That’s all it takes. For the illusions to crack. For resentments to surface. Suddenly the grass doesn’t look so green. And they’re left wondering: will they have what it takes to survive the truth?


It was hard to like these characters and the things they did. But I liked how they worked their way through their problems and issues.

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