…an involving, sometimes wrenching read that has a provenance and context almost as interesting as the work itself….
…The whole thing is exquisitely written, and covers much ground, being at times academically analytical, at others lyrical and romantic.
“Literature’s child prodigy, Stefan Merrill Block, returns to the bookshelves with, The Storm at the Door, an autobiographical story masterfully suspended between fiction and truth”
An intimate, beautifully written and highly engaging novel…Block has a lovely, touching way of describing ordinary situations — and the not so ordinary — to make them exquisite. You’ll read some sentences twice, realising you have never considered something from that angle before. Leslie Stones–Business Day, South Africa
“Beautiful writing…A personal history with a twist” Lee Randall, The Scotsman
Love and hate inform this story of a woman who agrees to her husband being locked away in a mental hospital in Boston after 20 years of marriage…At one point lying on his hospital bed and apparently sane, Block’s grandfather reflects on the fact that his wife believes that things happen for a reason and that he believes things happen and it’s up to us to invent a purpose for them. It is an extraordinary insight from a 29-year-old writer and one which quietly moulds the moving story he tells in this mesmerising book…Christena Appleyard, The Daily Mail
In prose that’s elegant and lyrical but never fussy, Block easily draws the reader in while spinning intricate webs of doubt and fear in his characters’ minds…Intelligent and empathic, this hybrid book gathers together the best qualities of the novel and the biography. Alastair Mabbott, The Herald Scotland
“A rich, complicated, wonderful book…I was so awed by it”.
Beautifully written…[Block] has an uncanny ability…to inhabit the deepest parts of his characters’ psyches and to find language that precisely evokes those states of being…Block peoples the institution with a set of invented characters who blaze with the strange and discomfiting beauty of madness. Alan Mudge, BookPage
This phenomenal novel maps the wild directions in which our minds, unfettered, can grow. The results are quite unique…Melissa Katsoulis, Sunday Telegraph, Seven Magazine (UK).
“The Storm at the Door is a richly imagined, haunting account of how the mind can betray the heart, and vice versa.” Josh Emmons, People Magazine
Block’s tremendous skills are on display here; as in (The Story of) Forgetting, each of the narrative layers integrate gracefully into the book’s superb ending…The technique of fictionalizing his own family history succeeds…largely due to the strength of its characters. They are drawn equally through the lenses of family lore, research, and compassion. Ben Westhoff, Dallas Observer
“A beguiling novel that meditates on issues of madness and memory…the book succeeds as a sharply perceptive, at times wrenching portrait of a marriage…The book’s biggest success is its parallel portrait of life within and outside the mental hospital — both realms are constrained, terrifying, ruled by anxiety and gossip.” Kate Tuttle. Boston Globe
A stunning, soulful second novel from bright young literary star Block (The Story of Forgetting), The Storm at the Door is inspired by actual events in the lives of the author’s grandparents, Katherine and Frederick Merrill. As their marriage falters in 1962, the couple is separated when Frederick, a heavy drinker prone to bouts of bad behavior, is committed to a mismanaged mental institution. Both are forced to confront their past mistakes and the possibilities of love, even as their worlds collapse around them. Written with grace and precision, Block’s vision of the past is colored with melancholy — but with sympathy and hope, as well. CBS News
“Stefan Merrill Block breathes brilliant life into his grandparents’ love story — and the “black hole” in the family history.” — Marie Claire, “Three New Page-Turners to Keep Bedside”
‘Block manages a quiet tension and a kind of manic rage and humour that makes the tragic heart of this book beautiful. The Storm at the Door is a compelling, raw and painful family history that never needs to shout or fall into self-pity. There are sentences here that I wanted to take home and frame. I loved it.’ Evie Wyld, John Llewellyn Rhys Prize Winning author of After the Fire
“THE STORM AT THE DOOR is one of the bravest and the 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 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 Great Man, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award
“Lucid, intelligent, passionate, this beautifully orchestrated novel reaches half a century back in time and reverts to the present in order to show three generations struggling to cope with the consequences of a grandfather’s madness that may or may not have been real. The visual images of this book are burned into my memory. The style is masterful. But most important the compassion that reconstructs the painful past and analyzes the uncertain present is unflagging and deeply admirable. Stefan Merrill Block is a brilliant young author who has turned out a nearly perfect work of art.” – Edmund White, author of City Boy and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
“Stefan Block’s heart-wrenching tale of love and madness cuts through the insulating layers of American life until it’s rubbing up against the bare essence of humanity. The writing is that good, the characters that strong. Never has a true story been imagined so beautifully.” – David Goodwillie, author of American Subversive
“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 andenduring love.” – Lisa Genova, New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice
“One way to read The Storm at the Door is as an extended meditation on Robert Lowell’s poem, “Waking in Blue,” written when the poet was a psychiatric patient at McLean Hospital . Another way is as a novel about corrosive family secrets. Yet another is as a slant re-telling of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. In actual fact, it’s a brilliant and fascinating fusion of all three.” – Mary Jo Bang, author of Elegy, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award