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The Storm at the Door: A Novel by [Block, Stefan Merrill]
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The Storm at the Door: A Novel Kindle Edition

3.7 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The Storm at the Door is one of the bravest and most beautiful books I have ever read.  It's a wholly original hybrid --by turns a fictional account of the love story of Frederick and Katharine Merrill, a terrifying tour of the "horrorland" of the Mayflower Home for the Mentally Ill, a lucid translation of madness, and a grandson's quest to understand "the blank page" of his family's past.   Stefan Merrill Block's language soars--he's got a wingspan that covers three generations. Refusing to be "paralyzed by fact," Block moves nimbly between fact and fiction, history and the imagination, to get at truths that are almost unbearable: that love can fail, that a mind can immolate, and that language can sometimes leave us lonelier than our original silence. This is a powerful, enthralling and unforgettable book." 
 
-- Karen Russell, New York Times bestselling author of Swamplandia!
 
"The Storm at the Door is a fascinating exploration of Stefan Merrill Block's family history, both of what actually and what might've happened following his grandmother's fateful decision to commit his manic depressive grandfather to a mental institution. Told with intelligence, a poetic ear for language, and empathy, The Storm at the Door is a captivating story about separation and enduring love."
 
--Lisa Genova, New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice
 
The Storm at the Door is a brilliant and passionate examination of the outer limits of language, sanity, and the human heart. At its center is the heartbreaking love story of a writer's lost grandparents, an enduring marriage interrupted by madness, sustained by language and memories. Stefan Merrill Block is an amazing writer, at once cerebral and tender, lyrical and profound. The Storm at the Door is an enthrallingly original book.”
 
--Kate Christensen, author of The Grea...

Review

"A great love story . . . a beautiful book."―NPR

"Powerful, enthralling, unforgettable."―Karen Russell, author of "Swamplandia!"

"Brilliant . . . [a] heartbreaking love story of an enduring marriage . . . Stefan Merrill Block is an amazing writer, at once cerebral and tender, lyrical and profound."--Kate Christensen, author of "The Great Man, " winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award

"Remarkable . . . Alternating between Frederick's struggles on the ward and Katharine's efforts at home with their children, "The Storm at the Door" is a richly imagined, haunting account of how the mind can betray the heart, and vice versa."--"People" (four stars)

"A remarkable work of literary fiction, a beguiling look at the interstices of language and sanity, memory and history."--Associated Press

"[Block] masterfully pulls the reader through this heartbreaking story, making readers care deeply about what happens to his characters, as flawed as they are at times. It's this generation's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"."--"Publishers Weekly" (starred review)

"Beguiling . . . a sharply perceptive, at times wrenching portrait of a marriage.""--The Boston Globe"


Product Details

  • File Size: 1213 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (June 21, 2011)
  • Publication Date: June 21, 2011
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004J4WN1C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #867,855 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John Kwok HALL OF FAME on June 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Stefan Merrill Block's "The Storm at the Door" is an astonishingly original, quite compelling, fictional exploration of mental illness and its devastating impact on a family; a splendid jewel of fiction that establishes him as one of the greatest writers of his generation. It is a most courageous feat of high literary art, not merely because Block has opted to imagine anew the lives of his maternal grandparents, rendering into fiction what others might regard as mere memoir, as those worth noting via his exquisite, often lyrical, prose. It is courageous in examining the legacy of his grandfather's mental illness across the vast gulf of three generations. It is courageous too in its depiction of his grandfather's residency at Mayflower Home, the fictionalized version of McLean Hospital, one of the leading mental health hospitals in the United States. And it is there, at Mayflower Home that Block depicts in prose, a dismal portrait of a 1960s mental health hospital that is as bleak as the refuse and disease-laden lanes of Limerick, Ireland portrayed so vividly by Frank McCourt in his memoir "Angela's Ashes".

Block traverses easily between the realms of fact and fiction as he spins a captivating, quite engrossing, tale that is based loosely on the real lives of his maternal grandparents, Frederick and Katharine Merrill, his mother and her sisters.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The first fiction book I read based on real incidents was Truman Capote's IN COLD BLOOD. It was a revolutionary genre. Decades later, we are presented with a brilliant chronicle of the author's grandparents as he integrates his research into a lyrical story of mental illness and love.

Frederick Merrill (note the author's middle name) is the husband of Katharine and father of four daughters. He is usually an exhilarating man with a ferocious intelligence and charming wit. Merrill served during World War II and returns as an anorexic which instantly puzzles his wife. She accepts his volatile personality and behavior often bolstered by liquor. Forward to the next twenty years as Frederick Merrill, who sporadically provides for his family, is a victim of manic passions and dangerous depressions. Bourbon often served as a catalyst for the manic episodes which seems to be a familiar theme in many intellects, such as Hemingway who also suffered from mental illness and alcoholism.

Katharine is a devoted wife, dedicated to making excuses for her husband's outrageous behavior until one night in 1962 when his actions reach a public display of nudity on a highway and he is led away in handcuffs. Katharine's friends and parents convince her to commit him to the Mayflower Home for the Mentally Ill. The story takes place near Boston and Mayflower becomes the asylum of choice for the famous; one voluntary patient is the poet Robert Lowell.

Merrill's tenure at Mayflower is a depiction of the helplessness of the mentally ill and for that matter, any prisoner. Locked up, deprived of freedom, learning the landscape to avoid solitary or electroshock treatments, is a heartbreaking commentary.
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Format: Hardcover
Stefan Merrill Block's new book, The Storm at the Door, is a must read. As a fan of The Story of Forgetting, I anxiously awaited Block's newest work. I certainly was not disappointed in the result. This beautifully written novel is a poignant blur between fact and fiction of a family in crisis spanning three generations. The characters take readers on a journey of a failing marriage and a wife's attempt to reconcile her love for her husband and the well being of her children. Eventually, she is forced to commit her beloved Frederick to a mental institution filled with famous writers, including Robert Lowell. While the novel is based on the true story of a grandfather Block never knew, the characters inside the mental institution are fictitious accounts of their experiences in treatment.

But the glimpse inside the mental institution is just one aspect of the novel. Block also delves into the lives of his grandparents, both when Frederick lives at home and when he is in the mental hospital. His wife, Katharine, and their four daughters must carry the burden of hurt and shame while trying to appear to live normal lives. Katharine's love for her husband never diminishes and for the rest of her life she struggles to keep her family together while learning to cope with mental illness. At times the gut-wrenching novel is harsh and other times a sweet view of true love through the eyes of the grandmother. Each character is vibrant and real to the reader and Block moves through time flawlessly, alternating the narration between Frederick and Katharine.

The Storm at the Door is beautifully sculpted to place the reader right into the center of the story.
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