About the Book:
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.
Stefan Merrill Block was born in 1982 and grew up in Plano, Texas. He graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 2004. He lives in Brooklyn.
I’ve never had to deal with mental illness in my family, but I’ve had to deal some pretty deep issues, so I can feel the pain and the stress that comes along with a person who has mental illnesses. Though I could never begin to feel what someone with a mental illness feels truly, I felt drawn to Frederick, and my heart went out to him. He honestly, in my opinion, truly couldn’t help the things he said or did. Being put in a home with other people like him, well, I don’t think it helped his situation any.
Katherine, bless her soul, married Frederick while he was in the war, and had no clue as to what was going on in his mind. She struggled so much, not with mental illness, but with loving someone who does, having to have the responsibility of finances, raising her family and dealing with family and friends about Frederick’s health issues. She took on all this, and still loved her husband.
Now, this is not a light read, so if you are looking for a quick light hearted summer read, please don’t read this book. It’s very emotional, very moving and VERY real. It will take you on an emotional roller coaster like no other. But, if you are looking for a more deep and meaningful story of family, love and sacrifice, then please. Grab a copy of this 4 star book by Stefan Merrill Block, sit back and be prepared to become a fan of Block and learn what it’s like to have, and to deal with, a mental illness. Very nicely done, Block!