Title: The Storm at the Door
Author: Stefan Merrill Block
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: June 21, 2011
Harcover: 368 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
From the Publisher: (to avoid any potential spoilers skip down to my review)
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.
The prose in The Storm at the Door by Stefan Merrill Block immediately grabbed my attention and the story keep me enthralled to the very end. Told in alternating voices of Frederick and Katharine Merrill, the reader learns all about the couple and how each came to the conclusions they did. I know I am sounding vague, but it is intentional on my part. Block has masterfully created a very deep, moving, and at times heart-breaking story which I truly believe the reader must let unfold as Block intended. I will say The Storm at the Door paints an extremely vivid picture for the reader, uses exquisite prose and caution this is a truly profound work of literature. I was worried this would be merely a love story and not being a huge fan of romance was not looking forward to the book and I am very glad I was totally, utterly and completely wrong. Appearances can be deceiving. Block exceeded all my expectations, and while I read The Storm at the Door I felt as though I was experiencing what Frederick and Kathy were going through, so yes, Burke has created a heavy and emotional book and one I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a deep, poetic, and exquisitely written book about the power of love. Where I believe The Storm at the Door will really shine is through book discussion groups as Burke offers up so much to be debated and discussed. My only regret is not having anyone to talk to about what I was reading.
Stefan Merrill Block was born in 1982 and grew up in Plano, Texas. He graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 2004. The Story of Forgetting is his first novel. He lives in Brooklyn.
To learn more about author Stefan Merrill Block or his books, please visit his website.
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I received an arc of The Storm at the Door by Stefan Merrill Block from TLC Book Tours to be a part of this tour and offer my honest review of the book. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.