A Quiet Giant

By Dawn Raffel

Merill Joan Gerber's novels and stories are worth discovering and re-discovering.


I first encountered Merrill Joan Gerber's work many years ago, when I was a fiction editor at Redbook. She wrote about domestic life—husbands and wives, women and children—in a manner that was highly accessible to her literally millions of readers, yet always came with a bit of...prickle. Her novels, I soon discovered, delivered a genuine bite; her characters sometimes led conventional lives, but if you were looking for received wisdom, you had better look elsewhere. And damn it, she was funny.


To wit, the opening salvo of her novel Anna and the Afterlife: "Once her dying got underway, Anna could not really complain about the way the process moved along..." Even when writing about death, or, in the case of The Kingdom of Brooklyn, about domestic abuse, her prose and her vision are razor-sharp.


Gerber's novels and story collections have been out of print for too long. I'm happy to see eight of them back as e-books, with more on the way. 


And I'm delighted that her latest novel, The Hysterectomy Waltz, which was excerpted in The Literarian, will be published next year. You can read the excerpt here