The Storm at the Door
By Stefan Merrill Block
Completed May 21, 2011
Inspiration can come from anywhere, and for author Stefan Merrill Block, he once again gets inspiration for his latest book from his family. The Storm at the Door is a fictionalized account of his grandparents, Frederick and Catherine. While the story does not mirror their lives, Frederick’s real-life mental illness and subsequent institutionalization are the catalyst for Block’s harrowing story.
Frederick is a depressed alcoholic whose “going over the edge” moment was when he flashed motorists on a country road. Under advisement by her friends, Catherine convinces Frederick to undergo treatment at the Mayflower Home for the Mentally Ill. Thinking he would be released within days, neither Catherine nor Frederick expected his stay to be as long as it was, and for the outcome to be what it became.
I admire Catherine’s tenacity and loyalty to her husband, especially during a time when mental illness was so taboo. She raised her daughters, monitored her husband’s treatment (from afar) and did a great job keeping it together. She was strong and patient – qualities that were needed for her circumstances.
The eye-opening aspect of this novel was Mayflower itself. Block holds nothing back in his depiction of life at this mental hospital. Massive drugging and electroshock therapies were as normal as blueberry pie, and it was painful to see Frederick slip deeper and deeper into his disease. You have to wonder how he would fare if he could just get away from the place.
The Storm at the Door is not for the meek at heart, but it is for readers who are moved by stories that focus on family relationships and marital binds. While I enjoyed Block’s second novel, I still favor his first, The Story of Forgetting. Needless to say, he is a young writer who will continue to blossom in his career. I look forward to what his future holds. ( )
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.