Published just two weeks ago by NDSU Press, Sister Secrets takes place on a family farm in Red River Valley, where Valan grew up with two sisters who suffered from manic depression. As mental illness was not discussed in that setting or time period, his sisters were not diagnosed until later in life, when the illness had taken its toll.
In 2005, Valan’s younger sister Elizabeth died in a car accident following a brutal divorce and custody battle over her children. One year later, his youngest sister, Cordee Jo, murdered her husband, having suffered a mental breakdown over her sister’s death. She is currently serving a 28-year prison sentence in Shakopee, MN.
Susan Rae Helgeland, retired executive director of Mental Health America of North Dakota, has said, “It takes courage to tell this story… I found Sister Secrets to be compelling and engaging, helpful to those experiencing mental illness and to their family members and friends.”
Valan, who also recounts his own struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts in the book, is now senior pastor of Fargo’s Messiah Lutheran Church, and preaching pastor of The Hour of Worship television ministry.
He serves on the Board of Moorhead Area Public Schools and has been recognized nationwide for his sermons on family and educational issues.
– Särah Nour