cover image Humming Whispers

Humming Whispers

Angela Johnson. Orchard Books (NY), $15.95 (121pp) ISBN 978-0-531-06898-4

No one knows when the whispers will start--not Nicole, who is 25, beautiful and schizophrenic; not Aunt Shirley, whose calm patience is a way of saying ``Live with it''; and especially not Sophy, who is unable to prevent her sister's sudden descents and who is painfully aware that she is now the same age--14--that Nikki was when the voices began. Filtering the story through Sophy's perspective, Johnson (Toning the Sweep; Shoes Like Miss Alice's, reviewed above) offers a delicate yet unflinching look at the shadows that spread over families of schizophrenics, investing even the most quotidian acts with added meaning and fears. Hers is also a story of subtle but real hope, in the form of strong, abiding human connections (Nikki's friend Reuben is so steadfast that her doctors talk to him in complete frankness; ``I don't think he's ever going to give up,'' Sophy says), flashes of beauty (Sophy's dancing, Nikki's elegant thrift-shop finds), and moments of understanding and acceptance, as when Sophy, with Nicole's help, pulls the threads of memory that reveal the source of her own longstanding fears. A luminous work. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)