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The Outward Room is a rediscovered classic of American literature, a book about a young woman’s journey from madness to self-discovery that is as immediate and moving today as when it first appeared in 1937. Having suffered a nervous breakdown after her younger brother’s death in a car accident, Harriet Demuth has been committed to a mental hospital, where her doctor’s Freudian nostrums have done little to make her well.
Convinced that she and she alone can refashion her life, Harriet makes a daring escape from the hospital–hopping a train by night and riding the rails into the vastness of New York City in the light of the rising sun. This is the 1930s, the midst of the Great Depression, and at first Harriet is lost among the city’s anonymous multitudes. She pawns her jewelry and is living an increasingly hand-to-mouth existence when she meets John, a machine-shop worker. Slowly Harriet begins to recover her sense of self; slowly she and John begin to fall in love. The story of that emerging love, told with the lyricism of Virginia Woolf and the realism of Theodore Dreiser, is the heart of Millen Brand’s remarkable book.
“A fine book. It is one of those firmly painted, exquisite miniatures of life, rare among modern books, that contrive to be unsparing and honest, and at the same time refreshing and lovely.” —Theodore Dreiser
“Opening with an escape from a mental hospital, this book, by following the efforts of a sensitive girl to accept normal living again, creates an understanding of a patient's problems ‘on the outside.’” —The Disability History Museum
“A brave novel about a woman who escaped from the fogs of today’s misery into the sun of normality and happiness; a story as devoid of sentimentality as a blizzard, and yet a great love story—a real love story. I don’t know when I have ever seen a more exciting first novel.” —Sinclair Lewis