praise for the storm at the door

“Block’s second novel is a remarkable work of literary fiction, a beguiling look at the interstices of language and sanity, memory and history.” —Michelle Wiener, Associated Press (AP)

“Masterful … heartbreaking… [an] incredibly moving story of life, love, and mental illness … It’s this generation’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” — STARRED REVIEW, Publishers Weekly

“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 (Four Stars)

“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

"This phenomenal novel maps the wild directions in which our minds, unfettered, can grow." --Melissa Katsoulis, Sunday Telegraph,  Seven Magazine (UK).

Reality is a fluid thing, based on perception and tempered by time. Never is this more clear than in Block’s insightful, beautifully rendered and dark story." -- Robin Vidimos,Denver Post

"Taking a true story and building an imagined world of love, mental illness, and the quiet evil of a weak man with power, Block demands a reader’s full attention so as not to miss a single, searing moment."—Beth E. Andersen, Library Journal (Starred Review)

"Block has crafted a powerful and disturbing tale." -- AARP Magazine (August, 2011)

"Love and hate inform this story of a woman who agrees to her husband being locked away in a mental hospital in Bostonafter 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

“The Storm at the Door” is sensitive and nuanced in its exploration of mental illness and how it shapes a family." --Carmella Ciuraru, San Francisco Chronicle

"A lyrical, touching story of family sorrow…The Storm at the Door is a heartfelt reckoning with the past, an attempt to make sense of familial mysteries."  William J. Cobb, The Dallas Morning News

"A compelling story…a brilliant look into the bomb mental illness can set off in a family, and the effects of it that can be felt even generations later."  Lisa McLendon, The Wichita Eagle

"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

"A sad but elegantly told story punctuated with a verisimilitude that elevates its fictional ambitions." --  Austin American-Statesman

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

“Stefan Merrill Block breathes brilliant life into his grandparents’ love story — and the “black hole” in the family history.” — Marie Claire

"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

"“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

"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

“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!

“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