The Storm at the Door by Stefan Merrill Block
A Novel

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The past is not past for Katharine Merrill. Even after two decades of volatile marriage, Katharine still believes she can have the life that she felt promised to her by those first exhilarating days with her husband, Frederick. For two months, just before Frederick left to fight in World War II, Katharine received his total attentiveness, his limitless charms, his astonishing range of intellect and wit. Over the years, however, as Frederick’s behavior and moods have darkened, Katharine has covered for him, trying to rein in his great manic passions and bridge his deep wells of sadness: an unending project of keeping up appearances and hoping for the best. But the project is failing. Increasingly, Frederick’s erratic behavior, amplified by alcohol, distresses Katharine and their four daughters and gives his friends and family cause to worry for his sanity. When, in the summer of 1962, a cocktail party ends with her husband in handcuffs, Katharine makes a fateful decision: She commits Frederick to Mayflower Home, America’s most revered mental asylum.

There, on the grounds of the opulent hospital populated by great poets, intellectuals, and madmen, Frederick tries to transform his incarceration into a creative exercise, to take each meaningless passing moment and find the art within it. But as he lies on his room’s single mattress, Frederick wonders how he ever managed to be all that he once was: a father, a husband, a business executive. Under the faltering guidance of a self-obsessed psychiatrist, Frederick and his fellow patients must try to navigate their way through a gray zone of depression, addiction, and insanity.

Meanwhile, as she struggles to raise four young daughters, Katharine tries to find her way back to Frederick through her own ambiguities, delusions, and the damages done by her rose-colored belief in a life she no longer lives.

Inspired by elements of the lives of the author’s grandparents, this haunting love story shifts through time and reaches across generations. Along the way, Stefan Merrill Block stunningly illuminates an age-old truth: even if one’s daily life appears ordinary, one can still wage a silent, secret, extraordinary war.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Stefan Merrill Block

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Stefan Merrill Block is the author of The Story of Forgetting. He was born in 1982 and grew up in Plano, Texas. He graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 2004. This is his second novel. He lives in Brooklyn.
Published June 21, 2011 by Random House. 369 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Storm at the Door

Kirkus Reviews

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Her relatives have turned against her husband first, and now they are turning on her too.

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Publishers Weekly

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Block (The Story of Forgetting) fictionalizes the story of his grandparents in this incredibly moving story of life, love, and mental illness.

Mar 21 2011 | Read Full Review of The Storm at the Door: A Novel

BC Books

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However things don’t change, Frederick is committed to a mental asylum and Katharine is left dealing with a difficult life and an unsympathetic society.

Jun 26 2011 | Read Full Review of The Storm at the Door: A Novel

The Bookbag

Grandfather Frederick finds himself in a secure mental institution in 1960s America - he's not quite sure what happened but as he's as sane as the next person he'll be discharged soon - won't he?

May 25 2011 | Read Full Review of The Storm at the Door: A Novel

Dallas News

She suffers his bad behavior for years, accepts him home from the clinic and attempts to carry on, ultimately to end her life in a manner oddly similar to her broken husband.

Jun 24 2011 | Read Full Review of The Storm at the Door: A Novel

Denver Post

Repurposing Denver Post content - Guidelines |

Jul 03 2011 | Read Full Review of The Storm at the Door: A Novel

Huntington News

Katharine Merrill didn't have much choice with her husband Frederick, after a particularly outrageous incident following a wild cocktail party: it's either prison or a mental institution, much like McMurphy in Kesey's novel, which coincidentally enough was published in 1962, the same year of Fred...

Jul 13 2011 | Read Full Review of The Storm at the Door: A Novel

North Jersey

Frederick settles in at the Mayflower Home for the Mentally Ill (based on the McLean Hospital in Boston) and gets to know some of the other patients, including poet Robert Lowell (who is fictionalized in this book but did spend time in the McLean Hospital).

Aug 29 2011 | Read Full Review of The Storm at the Door: A Novel


The book further speaks of Frederick’s stay at the Mayflower Institute, loosely based on the famous McClean Hospital in Boston which housed several celebrities and is known to be the highly innovative and one of the best asylums in America.

Apr 30 2012 | Read Full Review of The Storm at the Door: A Novel

Red Online

As in his first novel, The Story of Forgetting, Merrill Block visits the subject matter of the human mind, more specifically anarchy versus convention.

Jun 29 2011 | Read Full Review of The Storm at the Door: A Novel

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