The Outward Room is a book about a young woman’s journey from madness to self-discovery. It created a sensation when it was first published in 1937, and has lost none of its immediacy or its power to move the reader.
Having suffered a nervous breakdown after her brother’s death in a car accident, Harriet Demuth is committed to a mental hospital, but her doctor’s Freudian nostrums do 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. It is the middle of the Great Depression, and at first Harriet is lost among the city’s anonymous multitudes. She pawns her jewelry and lives an increasingly hand-to-mouth existence until 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.
About the Author
Millen Brand (1906–1980) was born in Jersey city, New Jersey, into a working-class family and was of Pennsylvania German descent on his mother’s side. Following graduation from Columbia University in 1929, he worked briefly as a psychiatric aide and for several years as a copywriter for the New York Telephone company before taking up faculty posts at the University of New Hampshire and New York University. The Outward Room, Brand’s first and most acclaimed novel, appeared in 1937, and was adapted for Broadway in 1939 as The World We Make. in 1948, with Frank Partos, he received an academy award nomination for his screenplay adaptation of Mary Jane Ward’s novel The Snake Pit. Brand’s association with members of the Hollywood Ten led to his questioning by the House Unamerican activities committee; he refused to cooperate, invoking the Fifth amendment. From the early 1950s to the early 1970s, Brand was an editor at crown Publishers. His other novels include The Heroes; Albert Sears; Some Love, Some Hunger; and Savage Sleep. He was also the author of Local Lives, a book of poems about the Pennsylvania Dutch; a posthumously published account of his participation in the 1977 Peace March from Nagasaki to Hiroshima; and the text to Fields of Peace, a book of photographs by George Tice.
Peter Cameron is the author of several novels, including Andorra, The Weekend, and most recently, Coral Glynn. He lives in New York City.