cover image A Quiet Storm

A Quiet Storm

Rachel Howzell Hall. Touchstone Books, $13 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-2616-5

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.