Stefan Merrill Block - The Storm at the Door (4 stars)

A fictionalised biography of Block's grandparents' struggles with mental illness and institutionalisation

Stefan Merrill Block - The Storm at the Door


Based on the true story of Stefan Merrill Block’s grandparents, Katharine and Frederick, The Storm at the Door is the fictionalised account of the trauma which lay deep in the heart of their relationship. A veteran of World War II, Frederick’s behavioural extremes (charming and affable one minute, unreasonable and alcoholic the next) finally led to Katharine helping her husband seek help in The Mayflower Institution for the Mentally Ill, his boozed-up flashing on a Boston freeway the final straw. But as the details of his incarceration make clear, it’s much easier to have someone placed into a facility than it is for them ever to be considered for release.

Bleak and depressing as the scenes within the Mayflower are, this is also a tender story about love going sour, the intricate minutiae of the pair’s life together making the separation too painful to stand. Although from time to time Block unwisely lets go of a tight rein to flamboyantly show off his literary skills, he succeeds in leaving behind a powerful testament.

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