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A Quiet Storm

A Novel
By Rachel Howzell Hall

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.

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