A Quiet Storm

( 12 )

Overview

In this vividly written, suspense-driven novel, the secrets shared between two sisters erupt in tragedy.
Rikki Moore was always the star of the family, easily outshining her younger sister, Stacy, at every turn. Smart, kind, and beautiful, it was no surprise when Rikki met and married the perfect man — pediatrician Matt Dresden. Her students at 59th Street Elementary School adored her, the church matrons solicited her help on every committee, and everyone wanted the golden ...

See more details below
Paperback (Original)
$15.44
BN.com price
(Save 9%)$16.99 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (34) from $1.99   
  • New (6) from $9.35   
  • Used (28) from $1.99   
Sending request ...

Overview

In this vividly written, suspense-driven novel, the secrets shared between two sisters erupt in tragedy.
Rikki Moore was always the star of the family, easily outshining her younger sister, Stacy, at every turn. Smart, kind, and beautiful, it was no surprise when Rikki met and married the perfect man — pediatrician Matt Dresden. Her students at 59th Street Elementary School adored her, the church matrons solicited her help on every committee, and everyone wanted the golden couple to put in an appearance at their parties. Stacy? She was just the overweight little sister who couldn't get her love life together.
But the world didn't know about the storms that rippled just beneath the surface of Rikki's image of perfection. Ever since she was a teenager there were emotional breakdowns and obsessive behaviors — secrets that Stacy was left to bear alone. Folks whispered, but they didn't know. When Rikki's husband, Matt, mysteriously disappears, however, the Moore family's carefully constructed image comes crashing down.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Nikki Giovanni A spectacular debut. Welcome Rachel Hall. The poets wish you well.

Lolita Files Author of Child of God Rachel Howzell Hall has written a powerful, astonishing tale about the responsibilities — and horrors — we sometimes bear in the name of family, and how those familial boundaries can be pushed to the limit. The author does a tremendous job of pulling the reader into the abyss of frustration the characters endure as they deal with the unraveling of one deeply troubled family member.

Publishers Weekly
Stacy and Rikki Moore are troubled siblings in a well-to-do African-American family obsessed with appearances in A Quiet Storm, the debut novel from Rachel Howzell Hall. From a young age, Stacy desperately tries to cover for unstable Nikki-a girl otherwise blessed with talent, intelligence, beauty and popularity-but ends up overweight and living in her younger sister's shadow. Despite her achievements, Nikki goes from being a girl who "wept at the sight of a stray cat" to a volatile adolescent who tries to commit suicide and an adult who is suspected of murdering her pediatrician husband, Matt, after their marriage falls apart. The author portrays mental illness (including the denial of it) with realism and sensitivity, but what really sets this novel apart is Stacey's lively narration, which crackles with dark humor, wisdom and self-deprecation. Though Hall tends to paint with broad strokes, she is capable of skillfully imbuing even the most over-the-top scenes with subtlety and fresh insight. Agent, Wendy Sherman.
Library Journal
Insightful and empathic, first novelist Hall's portrayal of bipolar disorder and its long-term effects on an African American family grabs readers from the start. Stacy, the narrator, begins her story with a childhood memory of a storm and goes on to liken her sister's life to a series of storms, an image that works very well. Stacy is compelled by family expectations to watch over and protect Arika, a sensitive child and then a troubled teen who grows into an unpredictable adult. As Rikki's illness progresses, their parents wring their hands helplessly, unable to cope. Counseling and drug therapy are sought only after Rikki's suicide attempt, but her sporadic use of her medication renders both therapies ineffectual. Despite her disorder, Rikki becomes a successful teacher and marries a wealthy doctor, though her bouts of crying and obsessive behavior eventually put her job and her marriage at risk. Meanwhile, the stress of continuing to watch out for her sister ruins Stacy's marriage and her health as well. While Arika's path to self-destruction is predictable, the shocking conclusion alone is worth the price of the book. A surprisingly accurate and touching drama of chronic mental illness, this compelling story is recommended for public libraries and book groups. - Jennifer Baker, Seattle P.L. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Two African-American sisters plow their way through something approximating life. At first, it seems that Rikki and Matt are the "All-American African-American Couple." But Rikki has storms in her head. Fortunately, Rikki's sister Stacy (newcomer Hall's narrator) was charged long ago with protecting her sister. Flashback to childhood, when Stacy is more preoccupied with Frogger and Asteroids than her role as guardian angel. When Stacy's parents punish her, they forbid her to read (maybe not a bad idea, given her library), and anyway the most important thing to Stacy is that people look at her when she walks through the quad at school. But Rikki is really the more striking of the two, and she's frequented by "rich, vanilla, Mayflower white[s]," but that's okay, because Rikki is "Black, but not too . . . Black." Stacy can't follow her sister everywhere, so how can she protect her from the storms? Somehow, though, there's plenty of time for the two to fight over boyfriends and lose their virginity-and it's a breakup with a boyfriend that triggers Rikki's first suicide attempt. As a result of it, Daddy decides to come home twice a week before midnight, and Mommy finally includes all the food groups in meals. Other attempts at righting things include exorcism and rebaptism. When Daddy dies-he was a cheater, don't you know-Rikki is convinced it's because she abandoned God. Eventually, Stacy follows Rikki to college, where she "drew to fornication like Texans to a barbecue." Flash forward to Matt's reappearance: he and Rikki are far from an All-American couple of any kind, and what happened to helping with the storms? Stacy's hot for Matt, too! Before long, Matt's a cheater like Daddy, trying tohave Ricky committed. The police get involved, Matt disappears, and bodies appear . . . . As Stacy writes of her own journal: "Nothing holy or profound found its way into those pages."
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743226165
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 9/28/2002
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 734,254
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Rachel Howzell Hall lives in Los Angeles with her husband. This is her first novel.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Chapter Two

QUEEN OF HEARTS

Arika — we called her Rikki — pulled luck from life like a blackjack dealer pulls aces from a deck. In junior high school, she was voted Best Figure and Most Likely to Succeed. She won poetry contests, received scholarships from Bank of America and the Urban League, scored 1,500 on the SATs, graduated salutatorian of her class, and sacked lunches at the Los Angeles Mission.

She taught fourth grade at 59th Street Elementary School, in the heart of South Central Los Angeles Rolling 60's gang territory. The hearts of the boys in her class fluttered for the first time in their prepubescent lives when they met Miss Moore. The girls styled their hair with their mothers' big-barreled curling irons to simulate their teacher's cascades. Her colleagues stole her lesson plans because Rikki's students outperformed other kids in the school district.

My sister received more Valentine's Day cards, more Christmas mugs, and more PTA accolades than any other teacher at 59th Street School. She earned her students' love with her warmth, her badly delivered jokes, and the Toll House cookies she baked for them every Friday. With her own money, she bought extra books for the classroom if there was a need, and during gang wars that raged outside the safety of the school grounds, she would load into her car her students who had to walk home. She dropped every frightened child at his or her doorstep. She couldn't sleep at night if she knew that she hadn't done all she could to protect them. "Teaching is my ministry," Rikki would say.

Women solicited her presence for teas and receptions, committees of this and boards of that. No debutante could come out, no Snickerdoodle could be sold, and no Christmas song could be caroled unless she sat on the advisory committee or hosted a fund-raising brunch or donated at least one hundred bucks. She never forgot birthdays and anniversaries. She served God and man to make the world a better place. She out-Pollyanna-ed Pollyanna. At first.

These same committee members and ladies who lunched expected me to hate her perfection, to belittle her efforts and her stewardship, but I couldn't. Rikki never gloated or bragged. She never acted smug and smarmy...how I'd act if I were beautiful, smart, and civic-minded. Who says God doesn't know what He's doing as He hands out gifts?

To add to her abundance, God supplied Rikki with a perfect companion: pediatrician Matthew Dresden. He, too, walked humbly among men even though he was exceptional. Matt spoke six languages, including Mandarin Chinese, and had finished college days after his twentieth birthday. He had joined the Peace Corps in Guatemala for a year. Matt also made the pulses of nurses and fretful mothers at Cedars-Sinai Hospital rise and reach levels not attained with their own boyfriends or husbands. Even when he knew that many of these women's kids weren't sick, he still delighted in making his tiny patients giggle at his magic tricks and funny voices and pretended not to be aware of their mothers' intentions.

Matt met Rikki at a church camp retreat. Some say it was love at first sight. Maybe it was. Maybe it was something else.

It's always been my opinion that a woman should wait at least three dates to sleep with a guy. Rikki, despite her high IQ, fell short by two dates and believed Matt when he said, "I've never met a woman like you, let's spend our lives together, blah, blah, blah" (on their first date, can you believe that?) just as Eve fell for the "You will have eternal life" line from the Serpent. But I'm also a realist. We all make mistakes when a beautiful man has his hands up your skirt.

Despite their premature coupling, Matt called Rikki back for a second date. Their relationship blossomed until they epitomized the All-American African-American Couple. Rikki and Matt kissed in line at Disneyland. They called each other "sweet pea" and "love bug." They kept their hands tucked into each other's back pockets. They talked at noon every day just to say, "I love you." I discovered this when the cops showed me their phone records.

Six years after they met, Rikki and Matt announced their engagement to a crowd of fifty "close" family and friends over tender Chilean sea bass and steamed asparagus with a divine citrus mayonnaise. I planned this special evening once it became apparent that Rikki was overwhelmed by the font selection for the invitations and deciding whether to use the stamps with the hearts or the stamps with the cupid.

Mommy muttered, "My baby's getting married," the entire evening until tears silenced her. Tears of joy? Tears of sorrow? A mixture of both? To be honest, I don't think she believed that Rikki would ever marry. Regardless, Mommy ran out of tissue by the time the waiters served the lemon tarts. Her mascara didn't mix well with the tears and the oil that already soiled her face. I wouldn't say she looked like a raccoon, but...well, you decide if you ever see the pictures.

Matt's mother, the widow Zenobia, recited her own mantra that night. "Oh, how wonderful. Oh, how wonderful" — and pretended to dry nonexistent tears with her starched monogrammed hankie. A hankie. In the twentieth century. Can you believe that? Okay, maybe my mother also accessorized with a useless swatch of material that night, but Mommy was nowhere near as tacky as Zenobia.

Zenobia Dresden was one of those rich ladies who couldn't find class if it were stapled to her elbow. She decorated with a hatchet and a single color swatch: red. She drove a red convertible Cadillac Eldorado with bloodred leather seats. And her house. Eight red velvet chairs surrounded the black-lacquered table that sat in the middle of her dining room. Fake red calla lilies sat in a red vase, which shimmered in the glow of the red-and-white crystal chandelier. Of course, this was set against a photographic mural of a Hawaiian sunset. And yes, there were the animal-print throw rugs, and brass elephant planters here and there, and the black velvet painting of Jesus and His disciples. I have to admit — she had a theme. And she carried it over to fashion — scarlet hankie and all — the night of the engagement dinner.

As Pastor Phillips blessed the food that evening, the widow Zenobia kept her eyes open. I guess she couldn't glare at her future daughter-in-law with closed eyes. Yes, my eyes were also open, but that's different. I don't get up in church and call myself a prayer warrior like some people. And my eyes were open not because I didn't believe what we prayed for, like some people. I don't think I need to name names.

After we all said "Amen," Zenobia sighed, "Oh, how wonderful, just wonderful."

Like a broken phonograph, that woman. Like cheese made from soybeans. Fake, fake, and more fake. She didn't fool me. I knew that Zenobia cursed out Matt the night he introduced her to Arika Moore over dinner a year after they started to date. She actually frowned whenever she said our last name. Moore. The way some people spit out Hitler or Nixon or Cher.

"You're just like your no-good father, that lousy son of a...," Zenobia said to her son after Rikki left her home. Miss Compton 1995 was her choice of daughter-in-law. Madison Reems (a Madison in Compton, can you believe it?) was a Lena Horne look-alike with an empty Cracker Jack box for a brain. To make matters worse, Matt Senior had, just before dying of congestive heart failure, left the country and Zenobia for Spain and for a dermatologist's assistant who resembled Rikki around the nose and chin. The widow hated Rikki as much as she hated paella and cortisone.

Rikki laughed when Matt reluctantly told her about his mother's feelings, flicked it away with her slender hand. Chalked it up to the widow Zenobia's love of J & B, Crown Royal, Johnnie Walker, Wild Turkey, and schnapps (if someone distilled it, the widow drank it).

Rikki and Matt's relationship endured. But as the time for their wedding drew closer, the gossip mill chugged into overtime. Rikki had never spoken ill of her enemies, had never stolen a boyfriend, wasn't involved in any of that talk show drama. But folks had a bad case of the grapes, you know? Matt hadn't chosen their daughters. What had Rikki done to deserve him?

A friend of a friend of Mommy's told her sister's cousin's niece (who does my hair) that Zenobia said one night after prayer meeting, "I don't trust that Arika Moore. And I don't want Matthew marrying her, either. I told him, 'Son, Madison was Miss Compton 1995. She's drop-dead gorgeous, smart as a whip, and more talented than Whitney Houston. Can Whitney play the accordion? Madison can. And she don't need no drugs to keep her head straight.' But he says to me, 'Mother, Rikki's just as beautiful, highly intelligent, and taught herself piano, and I love her.' I don't care, though. There's something about that girl that's off, taking all those pills. I can't put my finger on it right now, but it's worrying me. I stay on my knees all the time, pleading with the Lord."

Of course, I told Mommy about this one morning on our way to church.

"Who is she to be talking about who's crazy?" Mommy said. "Rikki loves Matthew and that's all that matters. And as far as drugs go, everybody pops something once in a while. Aspirin, St. John's warts, that stuff those ADD kids take. It's all the same." As we neared the church, Mommy tucked a pink lace handkerchief in her bra and pulled on her fuchsia church hat. "Zenobia hates Rikki 'cause she ain't high yellow like Miss Ghetto America, that's all."

True, I guess. But then...

Zenobia Dresden did rise to the occasion on December 20, 1996, Rikki and Matt's wedding day. It was the last major social event of the year: buppies joining together in holy matrimony before God and society. Everyone came, including our congresswoman, pastors from two of L.A.'s prominent black churches, and a movie star. They probably wanted to see if Miss Compton 1995 would bust into Wilshire Methodist Church with an Uzi and a broken forty-ounce.

Even as she solemnly marched down the aisle on Uncle Gregory's arm, Rikki refused to see pools of envy in the eyes of her guests. She never heard the remarks: "They're not gonna make it" and "I heard that Pastor Phillips said that they shouldn't get married" and, my favorite, "Ain't no decent woman supposed to wear a dress like that."

Instead, Rikki fell for their "You look so beautiful, I'm so happy for you." My poor, turn-the-other-cheek-believing sister. And those hypocrites ate our food — $85.50 a plate. They whispered behind one hand while the other hand, fork in place, stabbed at pieces of cake — $1,800 for three hundred guests. They stole bottles of Martinelli's apple cider as they bitched about the "crazy gold-digger" — $1.99 a bottle. I wish I could send every one of them a bill.

They contributed to the storm, those Judases. They kissed her cheek and wished her well, but then said, "Told you so," when the buzz gradually filtered down to them in their muck and mire. Rikki and Matt fought like the dogs of Hell. Rikki talked to herself and cried for no reason. Rikki threw a $3,000 Waterford crystal bowl at Matt's head. They heard that a scar in the shape of a watermelon wedge remained on the back of his neck.

It never mattered to them if these rumors were true. No one dared to ask Rikki or Matt or even me. They just ripped through the gossip like foxes in a chicken coop. They rolled around with full bellies, delighted that they had just gobbled up more ugly, hurtful morsels about my sister and her husband.

I disregarded much of it: the lies and the truth, people's whispers, even some of my sister's erratic behavior. I tried to ignore it as I had since Rikki and I sat together on our canopy beds. That night when Daddy taught us about watching storms come. The same night when Rikki told me that she had storms in her head.

Copyright © 2002 by Rachel Howzell Hall

Chapter Three

BEGINNING OF THE END

It only took two hours for the phones to ring off the hook when Rikki came to church alone one Saturday four years after the wedding. The earth stood still. The sun turned to blood. Frogs flooded the streets and rivers. There was wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth...

And just how many pediatricians do you know who may have to work on a Saturday? More kids than usual had runny noses and high temperatures. Matt was called in since he was a pediatrician. End of story. But no...

"I talked to Sister DeHaviland today," Mommy said to me later, refreshed after her Sabbath nap. My mother took pride in her role as the top left branch on the church grapevine. She was frustrated that neither of her daughters expressed interest in carrying on the tradition. "She told me that everybody noticed that Matt missed church today."

"Uh-huh," I said.

"Has she talked to you?"

"Who? Sister DeHaviland?"

"Stacy, don't be silly. You know I'm talking about Rikki. Has Rikki talked to you?"

Irritated, I stuffed the last of a third Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut into my mouth. A wave of nausea forced me to close my eyes. I wished it had forced me to close my mouth. "No, Mother, she hasn't talked to me. Why should she?" And why is it my, your, or anyone's business if her husband danced naked at the St. Patrick's Day parade? I wanted to ask; but my mouth was full. A piece of dough lodged in my throat as I croaked, "She seemed fine last time I saw her."

"Seemed? Anastasia, you're her sister."

I shrugged and licked the sugar from my fingers. "Yes, I know that, Mother. What do you want me to do?"

"Nothing," Mommy snapped. Then she whined about my flippancy and my coldness and my lack of compassion for her and my big sister. "Don't put yourself out."

"Fine. I won't." I didn't. I knew that I'd become involved no matter my level of apathy. I just wanted some time to myself before the circus came to town. I mean, I had missed church, too, but no one is interested in gossiping about a twenty-eight-year-old, 170-pound woman who does taxes for Catholic charities and freelances as a crossword puzzle writer.

As soon as Mommy hung up, pissed off, and I had placed the receiver back onto the cradle, my phone shrieked again, as if on cue. For a second, I thought about not answering, but as always, I did. As I figured, it was Rikki in hysterics. I couldn't even finish my "Hello" before she wailed, "He wants a divorce! A divorce! Oh, God!"

Stunned, I turned the volume down on Cops. "Oh, no, Rikki," I whispered. I knew she and Matt were separated. Matt had been renting a house in the Hollywood Hills, but sheesh, I figured their split was only temporary. A couple who called each other "sweet pea" and made love twenty-three days out of the month didn't divorce. If they could fall out of love, what chance did we mere mortals who ate peanut butter straight from the tub and shaved our legs once a month have?

"Maybe we should go to Marin," Rikki continued, referring to our family cabin near Muir Woods, twelve miles north of San Francisco. "To talk about it. To try to work it out. Then maybe he'll move back in."

"What if he doesn't want to come back?" I asked, immediately wanting to take back my words.

"Oh, Stacy! You think he hates me that much?"

"No, Rikki, wait."

"He doesn't love me anymore," she cried. "I don't know what I'd do without him!"

"Cheese and bread, Arika. Just calm the hell down. Damn."

Rikki blew her nose, then sniffed. "We just need to get away from all this bullshit. Bastards. They just waited for this to happen." She paused. "Including that woman."

Even after four years, Matt's mother still had her money on Miss Compton 1995.

I grabbed another doughnut from the box on my bedside table. They came in handy in times like this. Hell, in any time. "When are you thinking of leaving?" I asked. "Not until it stops raining, I hope." It's a pretty treacherous drive up those wet, winding roads. I found Jesus en route to that cabin last winter. My car spun four times and ran over a possum. For catharsis, I wrote a puzzle entitled "The Odyssey" about it. You know, "to cry in distress, 6 letters across," "a Southern rodent, 6 letters down," "to meet one's Maker, 3 letters down."

"Sooner rather than later," she said, then sighed. "Matt's a fucking jerk. I don't care. Screw him."

"O-kaaayyyy," I said, aware of the acidity in her tone.

"You think he still loves me?"

"I'm sure he wants to work it out." Hell, I didn't know.

My sister and I ended our conversation minutes later. I told her to keep me posted, knowing that I didn't have to say that. Two weeks later, right when America's Most Wanted ended, Rikki called again. She and Matthew had just talked. And because of his willingness to try and try, he had agreed to attempt to reconcile with her in the woods. She was thrilled: they would celebrate their wedding anniversary together.

So when the police arrived at the cabin that Christmas, they could not understand why Matt, a dependable and predictable man, had disappeared without explanation.

Months later, Mommy called me again on a Saturday afternoon, and like everyone else she asked, "Why didn't you know?"

I shrugged. I knew things. Just things.

Copyright © 2002 by Rachel Howzell Hall

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Chapter Three

BEGINNING OF THE END

It only took two hours for the phones to ring off the hook when Rikki came to church alone one Saturday four years after the wedding. The earth stood still. The sun turned to blood. Frogs flooded the streets and rivers. There was wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth...

And just how many pediatricians do you know who may have to work on a Saturday? More kids than usual had runny noses and high temperatures. Matt was called in since he was a pediatrician. End of story. But no...

"I talked to Sister DeHaviland today," Mommy said to me later, refreshed after her Sabbath nap. My mother took pride in her role as the top left branch on the church grapevine. She was frustrated that neither of her daughters expressed interest in carrying on the tradition. "She told me that everybody noticed that Matt missed church today."

"Uh-huh," I said.

"Has she talked to you?"

"Who? Sister DeHaviland?"

"Stacy, don't be silly. You know I'm talking about Rikki. Has Rikki talked to you?"

Irritated, I stuffed the last of a third Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut into my mouth. A wave of nausea forced me to close my eyes. I wished it had forced me to close my mouth. "No, Mother, she hasn't talked to me. Why should she?" And why is it my, your, or anyone's business if her husband danced naked at the St. Patrick's Day parade? I wanted to ask; but my mouth was full. A piece of dough lodged in my throat as I croaked, "She seemed fine last time I saw her."

"Seemed? Anastasia, you're her sister."

I shrugged and licked the sugar from my fingers. "Yes, I know that, Mother. What do you want me to do?"

"Nothing," Mommy snapped. Then she whined about my flippancy and my coldness and my lack of compassion for her and my big sister. "Don't put yourself out."

"Fine. I won't." I didn't. I knew that I'd become involved no matter my level of apathy. I just wanted some time to myself before the circus came to town. I mean, I had missed church, too, but no one is interested in gossiping about a twenty-eight-year-old, 170-pound woman who does taxes for Catholic charities and freelances as a crossword puzzle writer.

As soon as Mommy hung up, pissed off, and I had placed the receiver back onto the cradle, my phone shrieked again, as if on cue. For a second, I thought about not answering, but as always, I did. As I figured, it was Rikki in hysterics. I couldn't even finish my "Hello" before she wailed, "He wants a divorce! A divorce! Oh, God!"

Stunned, I turned the volume down on Cops. "Oh, no, Rikki," I whispered. I knew she and Matt were separated. Matt had been renting a house in the Hollywood Hills, but sheesh, I figured their split was only temporary. A couple who called each other "sweet pea" and made love twenty-three days out of the month didn't divorce. If they could fall out of love, what chance did we mere mortals who ate peanut butter straight from the tub and shaved our legs once a month have?

"Maybe we should go to Marin," Rikki continued, referring to our family cabin near Muir Woods, twelve miles north of San Francisco. "To talk about it. To try to work it out. Then maybe he'll move back in."

"What if he doesn't want to come back?" I asked, immediately wanting to take back my words.

"Oh, Stacy! You think he hates me that much?"

"No, Rikki, wait."

"He doesn't love me anymore," she cried. "I don't know what I'd do without him!"

"Cheese and bread, Arika. Just calm the hell down. Damn."

Rikki blew her nose, then sniffed. "We just need to get away from all this bullshit. Bastards. They just waited for this to happen." She paused. "Including that woman."

Even after four years, Matt's mother still had her money on Miss Compton 1995.

I grabbed another doughnut from the box on my bedside table. They came in handy in times like this. Hell, in any time. "When are you thinking of leaving?" I asked. "Not until it stops raining, I hope." It's a pretty treacherous drive up those wet, winding roads. I found Jesus en route to that cabin last winter. My car spun four times and ran over a possum. For catharsis, I wrote a puzzle entitled "The Odyssey" about it. You know, "to cry in distress, 6 letters across," "a Southern rodent, 6 letters down," "to meet one's Maker, 3 letters down."

"Sooner rather than later," she said, then sighed. "Matt's a fucking jerk. I don't care. Screw him."

"O-kaaayyyy," I said, aware of the acidity in her tone.

"You think he still loves me?"

"I'm sure he wants to work it out." Hell, I didn't know.

My sister and I ended our conversation minutes later. I told her to keep me posted, knowing that I didn't have to say that. Two weeks later, right when America's Most Wanted ended, Rikki called again. She and Matthew had just talked. And because of his willingness to try and try, he had agreed to attempt to reconcile with her in the woods. She was thrilled: they would celebrate their wedding anniversary together.

So when the police arrived at the cabin that Christmas, they could not understand why Matt, a dependable and predictable man, had disappeared without explanation.

Months later, Mommy called me again on a Saturday afternoon, and like everyone else she asked, "Why didn't you know?"

I shrugged. I knew things. Just things.

Copyright © 2002 by Rachel Howzell Hall

Read More Show Less

Introduction

Reading Group Guide for A Quiet Storm

DISCUSSION POINTS

1. Religion is a persistent theme throughout A Quiet Storm and Seventh-Day Adventism is the cultural backdrop for the book. Is religion, as it is seen in the Moore family, a burden or a blessing? What do the biblical excerpts from Rikki's journal mean in the context of the unfolding story? In reference to the characters' developments?

2. In chapter 5, look at Jacques's shocked reaction to the disparity in how the sisters are treated. Similarly, look at the paragraph in chapter 6 that begins "I told Mommy about my conversation...," especially the paragraph's last four lines. Explore the concept of "favorite" or "spoiled" children and why you think Rikki gets such special treatment from her mother and father. Why is Stacy considered last, if she is considered at all? Explain whether or not you think Stacy's mother cares for her less than she does for Rikki, and why.

3. How does Rikki's family react (in chapters 5 and 6) to her attempt to kill herself? What did Rikki want when she tried to kill herself? What message is she sending to her family? Discuss the Moore family's reaction to the event, including Pastor Phillips's "exorcism." What was your reaction?

4. A Quiet Storm explores family and personal guilt. Look at the paragraph in chapter 7 beginning, "In my heart..." after Rikki describes her dreams to Stacy, and at Rikki's statement "I'm not worthy of God's grace. And I'll get mine. Watch. I'll get mine." How do you think Rikki came to feel so guilty?

5. To what extent did Stacy and Rikki's father's affair, and his hiding his heart disease from them, affect their lives andtheir view of men? What are the differences between Stacy and Rikki's reactions to these startling revelations?

6. Why does the Moore family (including Stacy) insist on denying that Rikki is ill? Does their denial play a role in causing Rikki's illness? Why do they persist in keeping her illness secret? What other secrets does the family have? What about their persistence in maintaining family secrets? Have you known families who have this dynamic?

7. Why does Stacy allow her relationship with Eric to deteriorate in favor of trying to help her sister? What do you think made her sacrifice her happiness and well-being so constantly to save Rikki?

8. Discuss your take on the role of heredity in manic depression and other mental illnesses. Look at the paragraph in chapter 14 beginning: "My heart sank..." Talk about whether or not you think Rikki inherited Nana's emotional disturbance and if Stacy had the potential to follow the same path.

9. Examine the paragraph in chapter 19 that begins: "I kissed her on the cheek..." When Stacy left Rikki for the last time, did she know her sister was going to kill herself? How did you come to your conclusion? Did Stacy want her sister to kill herself? Would it have been possible for Stacy to live her own life if Rikki didn't kill herself? Examine personal responsibility and discuss where you think the responsibility for a loved one ends.

10. Does Stacy believe that she can change her sister and actually save her from her internal demons? When, if ever, does Stacy see that Rikki is beyond her help?

11. A Quiet Storm is a story of two sisters and a particular family dynamic. How much of a difference does it make that the characters are African-American? How do the book's themes transcend race and culture? How might members of other cultures or ethnic groups deal with Rikki's manic depression differently from the Moore family?

12. Examine how the author uses the themes of storms and earthquakes and natural beauty throughout A Quiet Storm. How do these nature themes amplify and parallel the emotional and social fluctuations of the characters? How do these themes help the evolution of the story?

13. Examine Rikki's capacity to love others. Did she ever display any real signs of love for Stacy or Matt? What actions or words does she use to express this love?

14. From chapter 15 on, Hall introduces a kind of murder mystery subplot into A Quiet Storm, complete with detectives, clues, and a Q&A. Explore how the introduction of this additional plot device advances the earlier, essential themes of the book. How do you think the epilogue serves to resolve the story or the characters' relationships?

15. With her beauty, superior intelligence, and creativity, Rikki is a magnetic figure. Discuss your impressions of the phenomena of "charisma" and "celebrity." Examine to what extent people are attracted to those kinds of people and what they hope to gain by associating with them.

A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR

All families have secrets. Unfortunately, mental illness is one of those secrets. Too often, we prefer not to think of it as a problem. Instead, we laugh at it when it manifests itself in that strange uncle you avoid during Thanksgiving. Or we think we can pray it away, without seeing a professional about it.

I wrote A Quiet Storm out of my frustration with families who refuse to deal with this silent killer, and with the sanctimonious who simply label it as sin. Manic depression is a disease that crosses gender, racial, and class lines. It does not develop from a person's lack of willpower, his or her economic status, or bad circumstances.

We can choose to ignore mental illness, to belittle it, or to be ashamed. But we should know: it will destroy. You only need to consider the number of people who are imprisoned, homeless, and institutionalized because of this illness to know that this is true.

As a Christian, I believe that God heals; but I also believe that He works through psychologists and psychiatrists just as He works through neurosurgeons, obstetricians, and allergists. How can we expect God to heal us when we are too ashamed to even admit that we're sick? Can't we meet Him halfway? A Quiet Storm shows what happens when a family won't.

Rachel Howzell Hall lives in Los Angeles with her husband. This is her first novel.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide for A Quiet Storm

DISCUSSION POINTS

1. Religion is a persistent theme throughout A Quiet Storm and Seventh-Day Adventism is the cultural backdrop for the book. Is religion, as it is seen in the Moore family, a burden or a blessing? What do the biblical excerpts from Rikki's journal mean in the context of the unfolding story? In reference to the characters' developments?

2. In chapter 5, look at Jacques's shocked reaction to the disparity in how the sisters are treated. Similarly, look at the paragraph in chapter 6 that begins "I told Mommy about my conversation...," especially the paragraph's last four lines. Explore the concept of "favorite" or "spoiled" children and why you think Rikki gets such special treatment from her mother and father. Why is Stacy considered last, if she is considered at all? Explain whether or not you think Stacy's mother cares for her less than she does for Rikki, and why.

3. How does Rikki's family react (in chapters 5 and 6) to her attempt to kill herself? What did Rikki want when she tried to kill herself? What message is she sending to her family? Discuss the Moore family's reaction to the event, including Pastor Phillips's "exorcism." What was your reaction?

4. A Quiet Storm explores family and personal guilt. Look at the paragraph in chapter 7 beginning, "In my heart..." after Rikki describes her dreams to Stacy, and at Rikki's statement "I'm not worthy of God's grace. And I'll get mine. Watch. I'll get mine." How do you think Rikki came to feel so guilty?

5. To what extent did Stacy and Rikki's father's affair, and his hiding his heart disease from them, affect their lives and their view of men? What are the differences between Stacy and Rikki's reactions to these startling revelations?

6. Why does the Moore family (including Stacy) insist on denying that Rikki is ill? Does their denial play a role in causing Rikki's illness? Why do they persist in keeping her illness secret? What other secrets does the family have? What about their persistence in maintaining family secrets? Have you known families who have this dynamic?

7. Why does Stacy allow her relationship with Eric to deteriorate in favor of trying to help her sister? What do you think made her sacrifice her happiness and well-being so constantly to save Rikki?

8. Discuss your take on the role of heredity in manic depression and other mental illnesses. Look at the paragraph in chapter 14 beginning: "My heart sank..." Talk about whether or not you think Rikki inherited Nana's emotional disturbance and if Stacy had the potential to follow the same path.

9. Examine the paragraph in chapter 19 that begins: "I kissed her on the cheek..." When Stacy left Rikki for the last time, did she know her sister was going to kill herself? How did you come to your conclusion? Did Stacy want her sister to kill herself? Would it have been possible for Stacy to live her own life if Rikki didn't kill herself? Examine personal responsibility and discuss where you think the responsibility for a loved one ends.

10. Does Stacy believe that she can change her sister and actually save her from her internal demons? When, if ever, does Stacy see that Rikki is beyond her help?

11. A Quiet Storm is a story of two sisters and a particular family dynamic. How much of a difference does it make that the characters are African-American? How do the book's themes transcend race and culture? How might members of other cultures or ethnic groups deal with Rikki's manic depression differently from the Moore family?

12. Examine how the author uses the themes of storms and earthquakes and natural beauty throughout A Quiet Storm. How do these nature themes amplify and parallel the emotional and social fluctuations of the characters? How do these themes help the evolution of the story?

13. Examine Rikki's capacity to love others. Did she ever display any real signs of love for Stacy or Matt? What actions or words does she use to express this love?

14. From chapter 15 on, Hall introduces a kind of murder mystery subplot into A Quiet Storm, complete with detectives, clues, and a Q&A. Explore how the introduction of this additional plot device advances the earlier, essential themes of the book. How do you think the epilogue serves to resolve the story or the characters' relationships?

15. With her beauty, superior intelligence, and creativity, Rikki is a magnetic figure. Discuss your impressions of the phenomena of "charisma" and "celebrity." Examine to what extent people are attracted to those kinds of people and what they hope to gain by associating with them.

A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR

All families have secrets. Unfortunately, mental illness is one of those secrets. Too often, we prefer not to think of it as a problem. Instead, we laugh at it when it manifests itself in that strange uncle you avoid during Thanksgiving. Or we think we can pray it away, without seeing a professional about it.

I wrote A Quiet Storm out of my frustration with families who refuse to deal with this silent killer, and with the sanctimonious who simply label it as sin. Manic depression is a disease that crosses gender, racial, and class lines. It does not develop from a person's lack of willpower, his or her economic status, or bad circumstances.

We can choose to ignore mental illness, to belittle it, or to be ashamed. But we should know: it will destroy. You only need to consider the number of people who are imprisoned, homeless, and institutionalized because of this illness to know that this is true.

As a Christian, I believe that God heals; but I also believe that He works through psychologists and psychiatrists just as He works through neurosurgeons, obstetricians, and allergists. How can we expect God to heal us when we are too ashamed to even admit that we're sick? Can't we meet Him halfway? A Quiet Storm shows what happens when a family won't.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 12 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(4)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great Read!

    This book was a great read. I couldn't put it down. The characters were very well developed and extremely interesting. The author did a wonderful job setting up the story and then making it reach the climax.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2006

    insight to life with family with mental illness

    I liked the look into life with a sister who has manic depression. What it would be like to have to always look after someone else and care for them - because they mentally can't handle life. It is difficult to understand people who don't process information normally, but this book helps you understand them. This book was a very good read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2005

    Interesting Story

    This book was an easy read. I read it in two days not only because it was pretty simple, but because the plot was very interesting and I really wanted to know what was going to happen next. It was also unpredictable. Although this book probably won't be memorable, I did enjoy reading it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2003

    Great first novel

    I LOVED THIS BOOK BECAUSE YOU CAN PUT IT DOWN AND PICK IT BACK UP A FEW DAYS LATER AND NOT BE LOST. I LOOK FORWARD TO READING MORE OF RACHEL'S WORK!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2003

    Great topic, questionable style

    I loved the topic of mental illness in this book. Its a subject which gets too little attention in our society, and doubly so in the African-American community. I found myself fascinated with the descriptions of Rikki's reality however found myself wanting more stylistically from the author. For a heart wrenching topic, Hall's style seemed very surface. Too easy a read, for too hard of a topic.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2003

    Wonderful And Well Organized

    I loved this book because so many of us are faced with some type of illnes and so many of us never realize that there is help. Reading this book helped me to undetsand why it is important to seek help before it's to late.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2003

    Very Interesting Topic

    I give this book five stars because it enlightens on mental illness within the African-American community, and it was very well written. The storyline was great, and it will definitely give you food for thought way after you've finished reading it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2002

    thought provoking!!!

    I loved this book. very very interesting. a prime example of what happens when family tries to sweep problems under the carpet.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2003

    thought provoking

    this is a well written book that confronts an issue that the (african american)community often ignores. the author tackles mental illness in a manner which familiarizes the issue. this book is great for book clubs and other group discussion type settings. i thought it was excellent. i read it in two days. i highly recommend it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2002

    A GREAT BOOK CLUB READ

    This book would be an excellent read for a book club. It would make for great discussion and even a great debate about family values and boundaries. The book had me on the edge of my literary seat, it even had me laughing at certain points. The way the author described the characters, situations, scenary etc. was impecable. I'll definitely tell others about the book. GREAT JOB MRS. HALL!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2002

    Astonishing

    I just finished reading this book about two weeks ago and I've been telling everybody I know to pick it up and read it. I would have never suspected the story to unfold as well as it did. Now this book does start kind of wacky but if you stay with it you'll never regret it! This story is so real and it touches the heart as you experience Rikki's struggle with her mental-illness. Not to mention the compassion you feel for Stacy as she narrates the story, revealing just how hopeless she feels living in Rikki's shadow. The interesting thing about their relationship is that while Stacy lived in Rikki's shadow, it wasn't because Rikki was better but because Stacy was giving up everything to keep Rikki sane (so she thought). This story will definitely reach your heart. It'll make you cry and it'll make you laugh. Rachael Hall gets an A++ for outdoing herself on her first novel. She's made her way onto my "authors to watch for" list. Read it, I promise you'll thank yourself.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)