The Vanishing Half
From The New York Times -bestselling author of The Mothers , a stunning new novel about twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white. The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect?Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise.

The Vanishing Half Details

TitleThe Vanishing Half
Author
ReleaseJun 2nd, 2020
PublisherRiverhead Books
ISBN-139780525536291
Rating
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Contemporary

The Vanishing Half Review

  • karen
    January 1, 1970
    NOW AVAILABLE!!!There were many ways to be alienated from someone, few to actually belong.i know it looks like i’m over here five-starring a lot of books in a row all of a sudden, but it’s not so much that i’ve lucked into a run of excellent reading choices as it is me finally sitting down to review books so good it's been intimidating me to even think about reviewing them. ALTHOUGH—if we’re being super-duper honest, Blacktop Wasteland and Betty were both 4s going in (but 4.5s in my heart) that NOW AVAILABLE!!!There were many ways to be alienated from someone, few to actually belong.i know it looks like i’m over here five-starring a lot of books in a row all of a sudden, but it’s not so much that i’ve lucked into a run of excellent reading choices as it is me finally sitting down to review books so good it's been intimidating me to even think about reviewing them. ALTHOUGH—if we’re being super-duper honest, Blacktop Wasteland and Betty were both 4s going in (but 4.5s in my heart) that got bumped up to fives when rereading them for the review made me remember how dingdang good they were. this one was a five out of the gate. it’s so good i don’t even know where to start. it’s a family saga that takes place over the course of forty or so years, beginning in 1938 with the birth of twin sisters stella and desiree vignes in the town of mallard, louisiana; a black community with an unusual beginning:The idea arrived to Alphonse Decuir in 1848, as he stood in the sugarcane fields he’d inherited from the father who’d once owned him. The father now dead, the now-freed son wished to build something on those acres of land that would last for centuries to come. A town for men like him, who would never be accepted as white but refused to be treated like Negroes. A third place.the residents embraced their founder’s dream of a more perfect Negro. Each generation lighter than the one before, and by the time the vignes girls—his great-great-great-granddaughters—are born, his bloodline has been bleached into “creamy skin, hazel eyes, [and] wavy hair," none of which attributes protect them from racism; from seeing their father lynched in their home when they are little girls, or from race factoring into their lives and shaping their opportunities when they run away from home as teenagers. they live together in new orleans for a few years before stella abruptly cuts ties with her sister and disappears into a new life that she will live as a white woman—marrying a wealthy white man and raising a daughter who has no idea she's anything but white. meanwhile, desiree will leave the abusive father of her own daughter and move back to mallard, her child's exceptional darkness there unexpected, unwelcome. eventually, three generations of paths will cross, secrets will be discovered, everyone'll have to address their choices. honestly, i don’t want to blah and blah about plot—i always spend way too much time on silly reviews, writing 20-page dissertations on minutiae that nobody cares about but meeeee before deleting all of it anyway and i need to stop being foolish with my time and learn to do things in miniaturized efficiency when i’m not getting paid. but i will say that this is a tremendous second novel after a really impressive debut and bennett writes beautifully about family and grief and identity and being deeply, unbearably lonely—the loneliness of the estranged twins, the self-othering loneliness isolating stella from her old life and in her new one, the loneliness of growing up dark in a colorstruck town etc etc. i'm doing it again so i'm gonna shut myself up now because i loved every little bit of this novel and we could be here all day if i don't put a stop to it now. ***************************The Mothers was good, this one is GOLD.review to come ASAP.*******************************my SECOND goodreads-win of 2020!! this is the only good thing in the world right now.come to my blog!
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  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    This is a thought provoking story and a few scenes were not easy to read. There’s racism here, a violent incident against a man, witnessed by his young twin daughters, and more trauma for one of the girls than we want to imagine. This and their upbringing in a small black community in Louisiana where people believe the lighter they are the better life will be. So it wasn’t a surprise that when twin sisters Desiree and Stella Vignes run away at sixteen, that their futures would take them on journ This is a thought provoking story and a few scenes were not easy to read. There’s racism here, a violent incident against a man, witnessed by his young twin daughters, and more trauma for one of the girls than we want to imagine. This and their upbringing in a small black community in Louisiana where people believe the lighter they are the better life will be. So it wasn’t a surprise that when twin sisters Desiree and Stella Vignes run away at sixteen, that their futures would take them on journeys seeking their identities. Although inseparable as young girls, they part ways and their chosen lives take very different paths. While it’s easy to connect with Desiree and the choices she makes, it’s not very easy to accept how Stella has chosen to live a lie and was most of the time unlikable. Yet, I was still drawn to her and felt for her, trying to understand her more.While racial identity is the core of the story, there are so many other layers here with characters that the author portrays in such a way that I got a sense of who they were, even if at times they questioned their own identities. The story is told from multiple points of view - the sisters Desiree and Stella and later their daughters, Jude and Kennedy, each of them searching it seemed, to find their true selves. It’s about different kinds of relationships between sisters, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, women and the men in their lives, cousins who find each other. There are other elements to the story such as spousal abuse and sexual identity. Almost all of the characters found a way to my heart. I found this to be such a well written story that captivated me from the first page and made me want to get to Britt Bennett’s debut novel The Mothers, which has been on my list.As always I’m grateful to read along with Diane and Esil. I love our discussions and sharing our perspectives . I received an advanced copy of this book from Riverhead/Penguin through EdelweissZ
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  • Nilufer Ozmekik
    January 1, 1970
    Wowza! This is unique! This is impeccable! This is perfectly written and I wished it never ended, pushed myself to read it slower, rereading some chapters over and over! It’s phenomenal and one of the best readings of the year!Welcome to Mallard/Louisa: small town can be hardly found ( or never found) on your maps: maybe you may accidentally find there during your unluckiest hitchhiking experience. A town has been founded by Alphonse Decuir, inherited acres of land from his father, making this p Wowza! This is unique! This is impeccable! This is perfectly written and I wished it never ended, pushed myself to read it slower, rereading some chapters over and over! It’s phenomenal and one of the best readings of the year!Welcome to Mallard/Louisa: small town can be hardly found ( or never found) on your maps: maybe you may accidentally find there during your unluckiest hitchhiking experience. A town has been founded by Alphonse Decuir, inherited acres of land from his father, making this place the home of people who are not accepted in the white community but also who reject to be treated like negroes. And in 1938 two little girls- identical twins: Stella and Desiree Vignes were born. Throughout the years they have been having hard times to find their places in the community, Desiree always told her sister she would find a way to get the hell of there. It’s not easy to relate in place where its people think if you have lighter skin, you may have better luck. And when they are sixteen, their mother pushes them to leave school and work in a wealthy white people’s gorgeous mansion as cleaners. Stella starts yearning the rich people’s lives as Desiree dreams other possibilities they can have. When she watches Roman Holiday at the theater she dreams to be actress which makes her thing endless possibilities of outer world as soon as she escape from her prisoner life in the town.And one day: they truly leave the town to go to New Orleans, only two hours away. But as you can imagine: running away from your home in your young ages without enough money and life experiment push the girls’ limits. They may take risks or go back to the place where they run. So both of them take different paths which result with different life patterns: Stella marries with a wealthy white man and has a girl who thinks she is white as Desiree chooses to end her relationship with her abusive husband and go back to Mallard 14 years later with her child and because of her child’s dark skin she is not welcomed by town’s people. Even though I had some prejudged approach to Stella’s life choices, it was impossible not to ache for her as you witness her melancholy, loneliness, trying to living a lie. Throughout 40 years, we witness twins’ lives and see how their daughters’ paths cross. Normally I don’t like to read stories told by too many POVS which could be confusing and create unnecessary commotion in my head but this time hearing multiple voices and reading the incredible stories which are connected and completed each other like puzzle pieces were joyful reading experience for me.This story is truly though-provoking, extremely emotional, soul crushing, realistic, shaking you to the core. This is one of the books stay with you forever. I truly enjoyed each chapter, characters and I highly recommend it to fiction, historical fiction genre lovers. After this fantastic literature feast, I’m looking forward to read the author’s previous work: “Mothers”bloginstagramfacebooktwitter
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  • Esil
    January 1, 1970
    So well written and so interesting! I’ve never read anything by Britt Bennett but this won’t be my last. The story focuses on twin sisters, Desiree and Stella, and their daughters, Jude and Kennedy. The twins come from Mallard, Louisiana, where having light skin is greatly valued. The twins’ skin is light enough that Stella decides to “pass” as white and disappears from Desiree’s life in the late 1960s when they are in their early 20s. The story then moves back and forth in time and from the dif So well written and so interesting! I’ve never read anything by Britt Bennett but this won’t be my last. The story focuses on twin sisters, Desiree and Stella, and their daughters, Jude and Kennedy. The twins come from Mallard, Louisiana, where having light skin is greatly valued. The twins’ skin is light enough that Stella decides to “pass” as white and disappears from Desiree’s life in the late 1960s when they are in their early 20s. The story then moves back and forth in time and from the different characters’ perspectives. Bennett’s writing is lovely, making the read smooth and engaging. The structure of the story is original. And the story and characters kept me interested and curious from beginning to end. Can’t ask for anything better in a novel — especially at a time when I find it challenging to find novels that keep my attention. This was a buddy read with Angela and Diane — it made for interesting discussion and I suspect this one would be a great book club read. Thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for an advance copy.
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    From the Jim Crow south to the wealthy environment of Brentwood, the story follows two twin sisters as they travel different paths. A small town called Mallard that is not found on any map, known for their light skinned negroes. Not seeing much of a future, when the twins turn sixteen they take off for the big city of New Orleans. From there their lives will diverge and their relationship will never be the same.Identity, decisions, fate and prejudice are the main themes explored within. How is i From the Jim Crow south to the wealthy environment of Brentwood, the story follows two twin sisters as they travel different paths. A small town called Mallard that is not found on any map, known for their light skinned negroes. Not seeing much of a future, when the twins turn sixteen they take off for the big city of New Orleans. From there their lives will diverge and their relationship will never be the same.Identity, decisions, fate and prejudice are the main themes explored within. How is identify formed and what will one do to hang on to the one they have decided to make their own. I loved Desiree, she is loyal, committed, her daughter Jude, dark skinned will have much to overcome. I loved her strength.Stella, the other twin will live her life behind a heavy secret she carries and her daughter Kennedy will suffer with the fact that she never really knew her mother. A very well written story, with very defined and different characters. I admit to liking Desiree's and Jude's story the best. I think I could understand their motivation more. Still, four strong women, who make their own way through life despite the obstacles strewn in their path. As always reading with Angela and Esil, make these reads special. Although we agreed on much, I think we favored different characters.ARC from Edelweiss.
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  • marilyn
    January 1, 1970
    The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett features black twin sisters, whose skin is so light that they can pass for white. The sisters have always been close, almost like one person, even though they are so different, in personalities. When they are sixteen, they escape their small Louisiana town, to make new lives in New Orleans. At some point, Stella is able to get a job working for a white man and she envisions real freedom, if she abandons everything about her past and passes as a white person. He The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett features black twin sisters, whose skin is so light that they can pass for white. The sisters have always been close, almost like one person, even though they are so different, in personalities. When they are sixteen, they escape their small Louisiana town, to make new lives in New Orleans. At some point, Stella is able to get a job working for a white man and she envisions real freedom, if she abandons everything about her past and passes as a white person. Her sister Desiree is stunned and heartbroken that her sister would walk out on her and everything they have been for each other, their entire lives. This story follows Stella, passing as a white woman, wife of a wealthy white man, mother of a blond headed daughter. Once Stella walks away from her birth family, she can never speak about them or contact them again, because her entire life is a lie. Although she now has so many freedoms that were not hers as a black person, she has sacrificed the family and the past that she left. This freedom that she has gained is also a kind of prison and a weight on her shoulders that can never be lifted. The story also follows Desiree, who eventually marries a black lawyer and has a very dark skinned black daughter. Her husband is abusive and at some point Desiree must flee with her daughter, back to Mallard and her family home. Back to the home where she grew up in poverty, possessing barely more than the clothes on their backs and no money. The contrast between Stella's path and Desiree's path could not be more glaring. Over the decades we get to see how the choices of Stella and Desiree affect the people around them...their daughters, the men in their lives, their neighbors, friends, and family. I enjoyed the story of Stella and Desiree and also the stories of their daughters and how they dealt with their hopes, dreams, mistakes, and the consequences of their actions. I was so drawn to some of the characters and wish I could name them but I don't want to spoil the story. There are men in this story that are weak in their destructiveness but there are men in this story that are strong with their compassion and loyalty. I think the men made the story for me, as much as the women did. Thank you to Riverhead Books/Penguin Publishing Group and Edelweiss for this ARC. 
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  • Jayme
    January 1, 1970
    3.75 rounded upTwo Black twins, so “light” they could “pass” for White. And, this story exploring “ PASSING” - a term I was not familiar with. One of the twins will choose to do just that-live life as a White woman.Her husband will never know the truth.She will not get to celebrate milestones with her twin sister or mother.She will not be able to share her heritage with her own daughter.I found this book to be profoundly SAD.IMAGINE believing that it would be worth LOSING all of that, to be WHIT 3.75 rounded upTwo Black twins, so “light” they could “pass” for White. And, this story exploring “ PASSING” - a term I was not familiar with. One of the twins will choose to do just that-live life as a White woman.Her husband will never know the truth.She will not get to celebrate milestones with her twin sister or mother.She will not be able to share her heritage with her own daughter.I found this book to be profoundly SAD.IMAGINE believing that it would be worth LOSING all of that, to be WHITE? I enjoyed the first half of this book, when I learned about “Passing” and the story focused on the twin sisters..Desiree and Stella. The second half was not as strong for me, when the story shifted to their daughters, Jude and Kennedy, and the focus of race and “passing” became diluted with another theme, regarding a character named Reese. I understand it was another way to explore “Identity”.But, the book would’ve been more powerful for ME if the narratives had remained with the sisters-If we had spent more time with Desiree after she returned home-So we could see both her struggles and also the riches that she DID have- by having Adele, Jude, Early and the community of Mallard in her life.So that we could compare, and contrast, the two choices in more depth. I wonder how many women who chose to pass, would choose that path again? Relevant Timely.Available now!! Thank you to the publisher for providing a digital ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for a candid review!
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  • Berit☀️✨
    January 1, 1970
    eXCEPTIONAL! EXTRAORDINARY! RELEVANT!Still processing my thoughts, but this was definitely the BEST audiobook I’ve listen to all year, if not the best book I’ve read! More to come. Just read it!
  • Read In Colour
    January 1, 1970
    I was not a fan of The Mothers so I was a little hesitant about picking up The Vanishing Half, but y'all? Y'ALL! It is everything. E-v-e-r-y-THING! Well developed characters, well thought out story lines, unpredictable. There's nothing I didn't love about this book. Brit Bennett knocked it out of the ballpark with this one. And a movie? Please, please, please let Oprah, Ava DuVernay, somebody option this because yes!
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    One of the best books of 2020 hands down.The Vanishing Half reminds me of The Guest Book in how well written and quotable it is. It was a very similar reading experience. I was so moved by this story and just sat in awe the entire time I read it. I think I said in my Instagram review that I was put in a zombie trance from the very first page and that is a fact. I was fortunate enough to have won a copy of this from an Instagram contest and be included in a discussion and Q&A with other readers a One of the best books of 2020 hands down.The Vanishing Half reminds me of The Guest Book in how well written and quotable it is. It was a very similar reading experience. I was so moved by this story and just sat in awe the entire time I read it. I think I said in my Instagram review that I was put in a zombie trance from the very first page and that is a fact. I was fortunate enough to have won a copy of this from an Instagram contest and be included in a discussion and Q&A with other readers as well as the author. I found out about this event 4 days before it was to happen and I hadn't even started the book. (Crap!) I had no idea how I was going to get through a 350+ page book in that short of time (lately, reading time has been at a bare minimum), but luckily I was able to get it done in time and I pretty much only took a break to work and sleep. I was taking pictures of whole passages so I could write them down in my journal. It also had me thinking a lot. Any book that causes me to look internally at myself or think about a perspective different from my own and learn new things...I'm sold. Well, now I feel it is my obligation to sell this book to you. You've seen the summary, but what the summary doesn't include is the journey you're about to go on. The story is so much more than a story of twin sisters. It's about every day people. It's about racial identity, gender identity, socioeconomic identity and so much more. Is your identity something that your appearance dictates? Or do we consciously evolve based on our surroundings? Is it something that we are born knowing? The questions are endless. This book could have easily become preachy. It could have been a book that you could mentally check a box for each hot button issue it discussed. Well, not this book. Not this piece of literary genius. To me, it did what I had hoped Such a Fun Age would do. It was a freaking master class that dared you to look in the mirror, stare at your reflection and strip the layers away of who you are. The other thing I sit in awe of is how all the stories are woven together. Each part jumps in time and begins with a zoomed out approach of something that has nothing to do with what you just finished reading. Some general history of the town, or a house, or a movement and then bam. You're right back with the story and you get that holistic approach to bring even more context to the story. It really was just a spectacular read. I urge you to consider reading it and I hope if you do, we can discuss it!Thanks so much to Riverhead Books and Brit Bennett for the advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review.Review Date: 05/22/2020Publication Date: 06/02/2020
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  • Amanda
    January 1, 1970
    This is my first Brit Bennett book that I have read, but will definitely not be my last. Stella and Desiree are twins bought up in a close knit black community in Louisiana in the 1950’s. They run away together at the age of 16, but one sister will leave the other behind after she accepts a job offer and takes the opportunity to pass herself of as white, whilst the other sister marries a black man and returns to her childhood home, where her daughter is an outcast for being so dark in a lighter This is my first Brit Bennett book that I have read, but will definitely not be my last. Stella and Desiree are twins bought up in a close knit black community in Louisiana in the 1950’s. They run away together at the age of 16, but one sister will leave the other behind after she accepts a job offer and takes the opportunity to pass herself of as white, whilst the other sister marries a black man and returns to her childhood home, where her daughter is an outcast for being so dark in a lighter skinned community.The story is told from the points of view of Desiree and Stella and their daughters. we go back in time to when they run away to the present time. Reading this book gave me much to think about, I couldn’t imagine being bought up one way and then passing you’re self of as white, having to lie to you’re husband and child and forever worrying that you’re secret will be revealed.A must read book that will capture you’re heart and keep it long after reading it. Thank you to Netgalley for my copy in exchange for a review.
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  • Larry H
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars The Vanishing Half , Brit Bennett's second novel, is powerful and incredibly relevant given the moment our society is in right now.“You can escape a town, but you cannot escape blood. Somehow, the Vignes twins believed themselves capable of both.”Stella and Desiree Vignes grew up in Mallard, Louisiana, a town whose population is composed of immensely light-skinned African-American people. They're actually descendants of the founder, but their lives were traumatized by their witnessin 4.5 stars The Vanishing Half , Brit Bennett's second novel, is powerful and incredibly relevant given the moment our society is in right now.“You can escape a town, but you cannot escape blood. Somehow, the Vignes twins believed themselves capable of both.”Stella and Desiree Vignes grew up in Mallard, Louisiana, a town whose population is composed of immensely light-skinned African-American people. They're actually descendants of the founder, but their lives were traumatized by their witnessing a horrible event in their childhood. Both sisters wanted something more out of life than cleaning people’s houses—Stella dreamed of college and Desiree dreamed of excitement. The two fled to New Orleans one night to pursue a new life.But years later, Desiree returns to Mallard with her daughter, Jude, in tow, while Stella has chosen to live a very different life, and a lie at that.The book tells Desiree and Stella’s stories as well as the stories of their daughters, Jude and Kennedy. It’s a powerful meditation on how intertwined family remains even when apart, and how decisions can ripple through the generations. It's also a look at sexual identity, self-acceptance, and the way home can be both a comfort and a curse.More than that, this is a book about race and the unconscious biases that exist among people in the same groups. It’s such a timely conversation but it’s never heavy-handed. Not all of the characters are likable, but they're all fascinating in their own way.Brit Bennett once again proves, as she did with her debut novel The Mothers , that she is a born storyteller. This is a book that will be talked about for some time.Check out my list of the best books I read in 2019 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2020/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2019.html. Check out my list of the best books of the decade at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2020/01/my-favorite-books-of-decade.html.See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com.Follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.
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  • Anna Luce
    January 1, 1970
    ★★★★★ 5 stars “At first, passing seemed so simple, she couldn’t understand why her parents hadn’t done it. But she was young then. She hadn’t realized how long it takes to become somebody else, or how lonely it can be living in a world not meant for you.”Brit Bennett's second novel is a tour de force. The Vanishing Half gripped me from the very pages as I was instantly transfixed by Bennett's subtle yet penetrating prose. Bennett is a brilliant storyteller. Not one word is wasted, or so it seem ★★★★★ 5 stars “At first, passing seemed so simple, she couldn’t understand why her parents hadn’t done it. But she was young then. She hadn’t realized how long it takes to become somebody else, or how lonely it can be living in a world not meant for you.”Brit Bennett's second novel is a tour de force. The Vanishing Half gripped me from the very pages as I was instantly transfixed by Bennett's subtle yet penetrating prose. Bennett is a brilliant storyteller. Not one word is wasted, or so it seemed as I had the distinct impression that her writing was simultaneously concise and striking. Bennett's prose effortlessly moves from present to past, as her story traverses decades (from the 60s to the 80s) and transports us from the small-town of Mallard in Louisiana to LA or New York. Bennett maps the lives of many characters, who inhabit markedly different worlds, focusing in particular on the lives and voices of the Vignes women.“The Vignes twins left without saying good-bye, so like any sudden disappearance, their departure became loaded with meaning.”Most people regard twins, particularly identical twins, as a source of fascination. Bennett, fully aware of this, adds a layer of depth to the mystique of twins by making the Vignes embark on drastically different paths. After witnessing their father’s lynching at the hands of white men, the Vignes have little love for their small-town, and aged sixteen they flee to New Orleans. Things don’t go as planned however and the twins become irrevocably separated. While Stella returns with a daughter to the hometown she so longed to escape, Desiree passes for white and marries a wealthy white man. In spite of this, their bond keeps them tethered together and even as the years go by the Vignes twins struggle to reconcile themselves with the loneliness of their ‘twinless’ existence. Their respective daughters share little in common. While Stella’s daughter Kennedy enjoys a life of privilege, Desiree’s daughter Jude is discriminated for her dark skin by her peers and the adults of her community.“The hardest part about becoming someone else was deciding to. The rest was only logistics.” The Vanishing Half tells a heartbreaking and relevant intergenerational tale. While Bennett does not condone the decisions and behaviour of certain characters, mainly Jude and Kennedy, she never condemns them either, revealing instead how viciously deep-rooted racism is. While Stella can enjoy the freedoms that come with being white (and wealthy), her fear of discovery causes her to adopt racist attitudes towards other people of colour and to inculcate racist beliefs in her own daughter. Like her mother at her age, Jude is eager to leave the confines of the ‘narrow-minded’ Mallard. In college she tries to overcome the insecurities and self-hatred instilled in her after years of being othered.While the Vignes twins and their daughters may occupy opposing realities, they grapple with similar questions of identity. Stella, Desiree, and Jude, who are alienated by their society because of their race and class, long to belong. Yet, they often sabotage their own attempts to connect to others (Stella’s attempt to bond with her black neighbour ends catastrophically).“It scared her, how badly she wanted to belong to somebody.”Bennett navigates the way in which race and class shape the way in which we are seen and treated by others. Her characters are vividly drawn, and it is their contradictory feelings and desires that make them all the more real. Bennett’s narrative doesn’t favor any one perspective, and in doing so allows her readers to form their own opinion of a character’s actions.The relationships the characters have with each other are fraught. While most Stella, Desiree, Jude, and even Kennedy to a certain extent, all desire to fit in or to form meaningful connections, miscommunications abound as they are unwilling or unable to expose themselves to others.“He was always doing that, trying to coax her further outside herself. But she felt safe like this, locked away.”In Bennett's novel love isn't neat or easy and identity is an evolving process, her observations on race, class, and family are truly compelling. She touches upon a myriad of topics (poverty, abuse, trauma, unknowability) with thoughtfulness and clarity. To white people like me (I grew up in a really homogenous and racist country) the America Bennett depicts is both disturbing and illuminating. While there are many horrific scenes in The Vanishing Half, I encourage readers to read this novel. Characters such as Reese, Jude, and Early alone are worth knowing. Interspersed in the various narratives there are tender moments of genuine affection and understanding (Jude's relationship to her mother and Reese are truly heart-rendering).“You could live a life this way, split. As long as you knew who was in charge.”
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  • Paris (parisperusing)
    January 1, 1970
    "You were supposed to be safe in Mallard—that strange, separate town—hidden amongst your own. But even here, where nobody married dark, you were still colored and that meant that white men could kill you for refusing to die. The Vignes twins were reminders of this, tiny girls in funeral dresses who grew up without a daddy because white men decided it would be so."The minute Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half arrived at my doorstep, I tore it open immediately. After nursing a headache on kombucha "You were supposed to be safe in Mallard—that strange, separate town—hidden amongst your own. But even here, where nobody married dark, you were still colored and that meant that white men could kill you for refusing to die. The Vignes twins were reminders of this, tiny girls in funeral dresses who grew up without a daddy because white men decided it would be so."The minute Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half arrived at my doorstep, I tore it open immediately. After nursing a headache on kombucha and Celer music for hours at a cafe, I’d already leafed through the first hundred pages by night’s end. I was completely rapt by this heartbreaking story, one of identical twin sisters bell-jarred in their all-mulatto southern town of Mallard. Then one night, they plot to flee Mallard forever — its racial terrorism, its demeaning domestic work, and its blood-soaked history an ever-looming echo, an itch of who they’ll always be — until a fork in the road leads them down two life-changing trajectories. Fourteen years pass before the eldest sister, Desiree, returns home with a daughter darker than anyone in Mallard has ever seen, whereas Stella has betrayed her real life for one of whiteness. Like the blood that binds them, their paths cross in unbelievable ways, leading up to a call to arms that will bring any reader to their knees.Abound with characters at the mercy of race, class, trauma, and identity, The Vanishing Half is a riveting, slow-burning novel about the infinite ways one dreams of rewriting their life by erasing their past. With it, Bennett has spun a tantalizing novel that is truly larger than itself, a love letter to Black people battling the eternal war of unconditional self-love in the face of whiteness. This was my first time reading Bennett, but it will not be my last. Her approach to character development and storytelling is something masterful — her landscapes as vast and vivid as the eye can see. The range with which she challenges racism, self-hatred, gender, identity, passing, and colorism, is so well done, so well-considered and realized. Front to back, this was an honorable, full-bodied story — an essential read the world has been waiting for.(Thank you, Riverhead Books friends, for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!)If you liked my review, feel free to follow me @parisperusing on Instagram.
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  • BookOfCinz
    January 1, 1970
    A masterpiece that deserves to be read....at least twice! In Brit Bennett's second novel The Vanishing Half we meet Stella and Desiree, twin sisters growing up in a black Southern community during the 1960s. Desiree longs to leave the very close knit community-at 16, this is her biggest dream but she will not leave without her sister Stella. When Stella final agrees to take the plunge and run away, they do so and both sisters end up in New Orleans looking to start from scratch and start a new A masterpiece that deserves to be read....at least twice! In Brit Bennett's second novel The Vanishing Half we meet Stella and Desiree, twin sisters growing up in a black Southern community during the 1960s. Desiree longs to leave the very close knit community-at 16, this is her biggest dream but she will not leave without her sister Stella. When Stella final agrees to take the plunge and run away, they do so and both sisters end up in New Orleans looking to start from scratch and start a new life.Things are harder then they thought, will little to no money one sister is forced to take a risk and the other is left wondering how things changed so fast. In the end, one sister made a life passing for white and the other sister after a hard relationship returns to the community with her daughter in tow. A generational tale that spans forty years and converges when the twin sister daughters', through fate meet. Brit Bennett took her time to write such an intoxicating book. I could not stay away from the book and I found myself walking around with it just to get brief moments to read. I wanted to inhale the book but I also wanted to never end- it was THAT good. The storyline was strong and convincing you felt like you knew the characters and you become so attached to them and their lives. The pacing kept you hooked and I had to remind myself to exhale because I just had to know exactly what happened. I was a little nervous because of how the structure was- many different voices and POVs but each was so unique and convincing and I could not get enough of it. I know we are only in February 2020 but this is already a favorite for me. I want everyone to read this book so we can gush about it together!
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  • Carolyn
    January 1, 1970
    When identical twins Desiree and Stella Vignes were born in the late 1930s in Louisiana in a tiny town called Mallard, too small for any map, no one could have known how different their lives would be. Mallard was founded a hundred years before by a light skinned Negro who envisioned a town where light skinned people would marry each other "for men like him who would never be accepted as white but refused to be treated like Negroes." He "imagined his children's children's children, lighter still When identical twins Desiree and Stella Vignes were born in the late 1930s in Louisiana in a tiny town called Mallard, too small for any map, no one could have known how different their lives would be. Mallard was founded a hundred years before by a light skinned Negro who envisioned a town where light skinned people would marry each other "for men like him who would never be accepted as white but refused to be treated like Negroes." He "imagined his children's children's children, lighter still, like a cup of coffee steadily diluted by cream". By the time Stella and Desiree were born, a newly assigned priest could not believe he was in a coloured town as all he could see were light skinned people, "fair or blond or redheaded, the darkest ones no swarthier than a Greek."Through the Vignes twins, Brit Bennett explores the question of identity, racial prejudice and the meaning of family. As very young children the twins witnessed their father being killed just because he was talented. Growing up fatherless, they left school early and after a year cleaning rich white people's houses ran away from home. Their fortunes and lives then diverged as they forged very different paths for themselves. Stella, the smart, quiet one, ran even further, passing herself off as white and marrying a wealthy white man from Boston, while wild, restless Desiree married a man with "blue black" skin and gave birth to a dark skinned child. The novel cleverly contrasts the very different lives of the two sisters and that of their daughters. Stella hides in the shadows, unhappy and fearful that her secret will be exposed, while distancing herself from her husband, her daughter Kennedy and her community. Her one friendship with a neighbour will be destroyed by her inability to be true to herself and her daughter Kennedy will be affected by her mother's secrecy and distance. Desiree on the other hand will eventually return home to her mother in Mallard with her dark skinned daughter Jude, who will have her own problems being accepted by the light skinned community.The plot moves effortlessly, weaving through the lives of these four and diverse strong women, contrasting the decisions they make about who they are and how they want to live. There are men significant to the plot as well; Desiree's lover Early who is comfortable being who he is and Jude's partner Reese who will grow into who he wants to be with Jude's understanding and support. Overall, there is a lot to think about in this book making a fascinating read that I didn't want to finish.
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  • Eric Anderson
    January 1, 1970
    I've always been fascinated by stories of self-reinvention: the way someone can simply walk out of their life and create an entirely new one somewhere else. Maybe I'm so drawn to these tales because they so dramatically and dynamically consider the meaning of identity. Which aspects of the self are fixed and which are fluid? Is personality a performance or an expression of who we inherently are as human beings? Can we change who we are through sheer willpower and if we lie about who we are enoug I've always been fascinated by stories of self-reinvention: the way someone can simply walk out of their life and create an entirely new one somewhere else. Maybe I'm so drawn to these tales because they so dramatically and dynamically consider the meaning of identity. Which aspects of the self are fixed and which are fluid? Is personality a performance or an expression of who we inherently are as human beings? Can we change who we are through sheer willpower and if we lie about who we are enough does it eventually become the truth? These are questions at the heart of Brit Bennett's new novel “The Vanishing Half” whose utterly compelling story considers many different types of dualities and personal transformations. It's also a heartrending tale of a family split apart by inherited notions of classism and racism. Twins Stella and Desiree Vignes ran away from their small Louisiana town of Mallard in the 1950s when they were teenagers and went on to live very different lives. Mallard isn't a large enough place to be included on any map. Its citizens are primarily made up of light-skinned African Americans who still suffer the brutal effects of racism while simultaneously looking down at darker-skinned black people. This is the sort of community so powerfully described in Margo Jefferson's memoir “Negroland”. Over ten years after abruptly leaving the town, Desiree returns with a daughter who has very dark skin and the locals are appalled by what they consider to be her diminution of status because they believe “Once you mixed with common blood, you were common forever.”Read my full review of The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett on LonesomeReader
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  • JanB
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 starsThe Vignes twins are identical but they couldn’t be more different in personality. This is the story of light-skinned black twins whose lives take very different paths. The twins grew up in the odd little fictional southern town of Mallard where the blacks found dark skin undesirable. The lighter they were, the better, and the dark-skinned blacks faced discrimination from the light-skinned ones. As young children, the twins endure a trauma when they see their father lynched by white m 4.5 starsThe Vignes twins are identical but they couldn’t be more different in personality. This is the story of light-skinned black twins whose lives take very different paths. The twins grew up in the odd little fictional southern town of Mallard where the blacks found dark skin undesirable. The lighter they were, the better, and the dark-skinned blacks faced discrimination from the light-skinned ones. As young children, the twins endure a trauma when they see their father lynched by white men. This changes the trajectory of their lives. Eventually the girls strike out on their own. Stella chooses to break ties with her family, “pass over”, and live as a white. She marries a wealthy white man and has a white, blond-haired daughter, Kennedy. Desiree makes a bad choice in a husband but eventually returns home to her hometown with Jude, her very dark black daughter. I don’t want to ruin the story and give away too much, so I’ll keep this light on plot. What is it like for Desiree and Jude to live in a town that values light skin and discriminates against dark skin, when Jude is so very dark? How does this shape her? What is it like for Stella to live a lie, to live without relatives or childhood friends, without a history to share? Does her wealth and privilege bring contentment and happiness? She can never truly open up to anyone, not even her husband and daughter, for fear of exposing her true self. How does this shape her daughter Kennedy? What happens when a black family moves into Stella’s very white, very wealthy neighborhood? Their choices have far-reaching unintended consequences. Eventually, events transpire that threatens to destroy the life Stella has so carefully built. How she reacts and the effects on the daughters of Stella and Desiree comprise much of the second half of the book. I found the first half a slow build up but the second half I blew through in an afternoon. The only things that kept me from giving this a full 5 stars were a few too many coincidences moving the plot forward and awkward transitions between chapters and characters. But, the strengths in this moving novel overshadows these small criticisms. Powerful, thought-provoking, and profound, but told through such compelling, yet flawed, characters it doesn’t read like an “issue” book. The subplot of identity is handled with depth and sensitivity. Spanning decades, from the 1950s to the 1990s, this is an exploration of “passing”. I had not heard this term used before and read more here:https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswit... Is the vanishing half losing your twin or is it losing the half of yourself you choose to deny and leave behind when you pass? Perhaps it’s both. I love an introspective book that reveals the inner lives of characters. Days after finishing the book and I'm still thinking about these characters and the issues raised. Marialyce and I read this together and it inspired thoughtful, deep discussions. This would make a wonderful choice for a book club . *I received a free digital copy of this book via Edelweiss. All opinions are my own.
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  • Debra
    January 1, 1970
    "You could never quite get used to loneliness..." Identical twin sisters, Desiree, and Stella Vignes were born in Mallard, Louisiana, a town so small it cannot be found on the map. They have witnessed atrocities inflicted upon their father at a young age. They decide to run away from their southern black community at the age of 16 and start over in New Orleans. Years later, Desiree returns to her hometown with her young daughter while her twin sister Stella, is living as a white woman and her "You could never quite get used to loneliness..." Identical twin sisters, Desiree, and Stella Vignes were born in Mallard, Louisiana, a town so small it cannot be found on the map. They have witnessed atrocities inflicted upon their father at a young age. They decide to run away from their southern black community at the age of 16 and start over in New Orleans. Years later, Desiree returns to her hometown with her young daughter while her twin sister Stella, is living as a white woman and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Desiree longs for her sister who left without saying goodbye.Both twins’ lives go in separate directions. Once Stella leaves, neither knows what became of the other. Their lives; however, are intertwined (their daughter's lives intertwine) as this book moves from the deep south to the east coast, and to California from the 1950s to the 1990s. This is a story about love, family, mothers, daughters, acceptance, racism, how race shapes individuals' lives. This book also touches on domestic violence, gender identity, racial identity, and acceptance.This book gives us various characters with distinct personalities and POVs. We not only read but feel their pain, their heartache, their loneliness, their happiness, and their strength. I found this to be a beautifully written and thought-provoking book. This was my first book by Brit Bennett, and it will not be my last. I received a copy of this book from the Editor and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
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  • Ceecee
    January 1, 1970
    Twin sisters Stella and Desiree Vignes grow up in Mallard, Louisiana, the great, great, granddaughters of the ex-slave founder of the settlement. Mallard is unique in that those that live there pride themselves on the lightness of their skin - they are ‘beige’ and do not marry ‘dark’. However, despite this the girls can expect to do the same job as their Mama, to clean the houses of white folly, their lives are mapped out as domestic workers. The twins have other ideas. One night in 1954 they sl Twin sisters Stella and Desiree Vignes grow up in Mallard, Louisiana, the great, great, granddaughters of the ex-slave founder of the settlement. Mallard is unique in that those that live there pride themselves on the lightness of their skin - they are ‘beige’ and do not marry ‘dark’. However, despite this the girls can expect to do the same job as their Mama, to clean the houses of white folly, their lives are mapped out as domestic workers. The twins have other ideas. One night in 1954 they slip away and settle in New Orleans where their lives follow very different trajectories. Fourteen years later in 1968, Desiree returns to Mallard with her young daughter Jade who is so dark she is ‘blue black’. Stella meanwhile escapes into a white world while her twin returns to her roots. The story is told through forty years of change from the perspectives of the twins and their daughters Jade and Kennedy. This is a well written and powerful story although not always a comfortable read especially with the racism that the characters endure. I think it’s fair to say that both sisters are damaged by what happened to their father. The characters are well developed, their feelings echo across the pages and resonate especially the isolation and loneliness particularly of Stella. It captures the historical period well, placing the sisters stories and experiences into the context of the times. The book deals with many issues especially race, class and identity. This applies to Stella as she tries to eradicate the past and reinvent herself but other characters seek to find their true individuality and sexuality. This is a slow burner which is superbly told and a book which will linger in the memory. Highly recommended.
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  • Dennis
    January 1, 1970
    The Vanishing Half is nothing short of a masterpiece. It's a juxtaposition between the very different lives in which white and black America has existed through decades of inequality. This book shows how two women, light-skinned African American women in Louisiana decide to live their lives. One passing as a white woman, while the other chooses to live her truth. We reflect on their lives from young adulthood to parenthood, we see how two women lead completely different lives. It's a painful The Vanishing Half is nothing short of a masterpiece. It's a juxtaposition between the very different lives in which white and black America has existed through decades of inequality. This book shows how two women, light-skinned African American women in Louisiana decide to live their lives. One passing as a white woman, while the other chooses to live her truth. We reflect on their lives from young adulthood to parenthood, we see how two women lead completely different lives. It's a painful story of love and life, racism and social disparity, sexuality and acceptance. The Vanishing Half is a powerful book and it'll stay with me for a long time.
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  • Jessica Jeffers
    January 1, 1970
    What an absolutely incredible book, from start to finish. The story centers around twin sisters from Mallard, a town in Louisiana that was settled by a light-skinned man essentially as a way of separating themselves from the surrounding black community. Desiree and Stella ran away from home at age 16 and went on to lead very divergent lives: Desiree married a much darker man; Stella married a white man and passes for white herself. Desiree eventually returns home to Mallard with her daughter Jud What an absolutely incredible book, from start to finish. The story centers around twin sisters from Mallard, a town in Louisiana that was settled by a light-skinned man essentially as a way of separating themselves from the surrounding black community. Desiree and Stella ran away from home at age 16 and went on to lead very divergent lives: Desiree married a much darker man; Stella married a white man and passes for white herself. Desiree eventually returns home to Mallard with her daughter Jude, whose dark skin makes her a target for bullying. She longs for the sister whom she hasn't heard from in years. Meanwhile, Stella settles into a life of luxury in LA with her husband and daughter, Kennedy, neither of whom know her secret. Spanning more than forty years, this book looks at the consequences of systemic and internalized racism beginning in the Jim Crow era through the end of the twentieth century. I picked up an advance copy of the book before the current situation, in which protests against the murder of a black man by police have spilled over into violence across the country, but it was still resonated deeply. It's a beautifully written story about a family struggling with hurt as well as a thoughtful exploration of race and racism.
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  • Bobbieshiann
    January 1, 1970
    The Vanishing Half arrived at my doorstep over a week ago and I could not put it down! I won it in Riverheads #ownvoices giveaway. Here is a story that picks at so many realistic situations that at times I had to disconnect from the story to not mix part of myself with it.The Vanishing Half tells a story of two twin sisters who live in a town called Mallard. A town where only the fair skinned Blacks are allowed. A town where the lightness of your complexion is acceptance but still not acceptable The Vanishing Half arrived at my doorstep over a week ago and I could not put it down! I won it in Riverheads #ownvoices giveaway. Here is a story that picks at so many realistic situations that at times I had to disconnect from the story to not mix part of myself with it.The Vanishing Half tells a story of two twin sisters who live in a town called Mallard. A town where only the fair skinned Blacks are allowed. A town where the lightness of your complexion is acceptance but still not acceptable enough to white people. We do have remember the 1960s. Twin sisters Stella and Desire learn that their skin complexion is not their savor as they watch their father get brutally beaten and their mother be a maid towns over to a white family. As the two runaway and split off, we learn of their lives unconnected and what it is to pass as white versus what it’s like to run into the arms of the darkest Black men. Bennett finds a way to connect these sisters through their children and tell a story of heartache, lies, identity, acceptance, class, race, and unconditional love(wait until you met Reese and Jude). I gravitated to the storyline so strongly because it was partly a reflection of myself. Years of avoidance + the struggle of dealing with my “light” complexion. I have never identified as anything but Black. Growing up I was picked on for being too light or was not considered “Black enough” because of how I spoke but at the same time, I saw siblings and cousins picked on for being “too dark”. Bennett doesn’t shy away from controversial topics and slowly gives voice to each character as shes able to give them each their own story but connect them like the puzzle you finally finished while in quarantine lol.
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  • Jamie
    January 1, 1970
    I LOVED THIS BOOK. It's December 18, 2019 but I guarantee it will make it to my top 5 list for next year. This book gave me a sense of dread, because there were so many characters who could have terrible things happen to them, and yet I read it with hope. And while Bennett breaks your heart and doesn't shy away from the sadness inherent in every one of these character's lives, she left me feeling better for having met all of them. Each character's story unfolds so delicately and yet so deftly, a I LOVED THIS BOOK. It's December 18, 2019 but I guarantee it will make it to my top 5 list for next year. This book gave me a sense of dread, because there were so many characters who could have terrible things happen to them, and yet I read it with hope. And while Bennett breaks your heart and doesn't shy away from the sadness inherent in every one of these character's lives, she left me feeling better for having met all of them. Each character's story unfolds so delicately and yet so deftly, and nothing resolved the way I expected it to and yet everything made perfect sense. This book is so astonishingly accomplished, and sweeping, and yet so very intimate. This is incredible. And DAMN is the title so perfect.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 rounded downI thoroughly enjoyed Brit Bennett’s debut novel The Mothers, so was excited to get an advance copy of The Vanishing Half. And this doesn’t disappoint, in fact it feels like a much more accomplished novel in many ways.The Vignes twins are born in the small town of Mallard in the 1950s and decide to run away together aged sixteen to New Orleans to escape the oppressive small town environment for bigger and better things. Several years later one sister returns to Mallard with her da 4.5 rounded downI thoroughly enjoyed Brit Bennett’s debut novel The Mothers, so was excited to get an advance copy of The Vanishing Half. And this doesn’t disappoint, in fact it feels like a much more accomplished novel in many ways.The Vignes twins are born in the small town of Mallard in the 1950s and decide to run away together aged sixteen to New Orleans to escape the oppressive small town environment for bigger and better things. Several years later one sister returns to Mallard with her daughter in tow, the other doesn’t. The sisters lead quite different lives, and both raise daughters who in turn also have very different upbringings and experiences. Then one day, their lives converge once again.Bennett tackles a lot of themes here - gender identity, race, racism, family and specifically mother/daughter relationships. I expect most readers will have a soft spot for one certain side of the family, but the strength of this story rests in the issues raised in the contrasts between the two Vignes sisters’ lives and the different paths they follow through life, with the associated consequences of their decisions, and also the impact this has on their individual daughters. Ambitious in scope and spanning a number of decades this story had the potential to get muddled in a lesser author’s hands, but this novel is nothing but a success. I hope to see it on a number of prize longlists later this year and can’t wait to read what Bennett writes next. Thank you Netgalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Jaclyn Crupi
    January 1, 1970
    Bennett is a gifted storyteller and this is the perfect follow-up to The Mothers. Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half proves just how good a storyteller she is. This multi-generational family saga explores the American history of passing, racial violence and intergenerational trauma. You will care deeply about these women and their struggles and come to understand why they might feel compelled to live as something other than their origins and the ramifications of such a choice if they follow that Bennett is a gifted storyteller and this is the perfect follow-up to The Mothers. Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half proves just how good a storyteller she is. This multi-generational family saga explores the American history of passing, racial violence and intergenerational trauma. You will care deeply about these women and their struggles and come to understand why they might feel compelled to live as something other than their origins and the ramifications of such a choice if they follow that compulsion. Bennett’s dialogue is pitch perfect and her prose has a grace to it that makes me wish more people wrote like her. It is a little long towards the end but I could say that about almost every book I read. A must read for 2020 – this one will linger.
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  • Fanna
    January 1, 1970
    June 3, 2020: A very happy release day to this story about two inseparable twins growing up in 1960s that is socially and culturally insightful about race and identity as it dives into themes of racism, self-hatred, colorism, passing, gender, and compassion. June 3, 2020: A very happy release day to this story about two inseparable twins growing up in 1960s that is socially and culturally insightful about race and identity as it dives into themes of racism, self-hatred, colorism, passing, gender, and compassion.
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  • Nenia ⚔️ Queen of Villainy ⚔️ Campbell
    January 1, 1970
    Are twins the new trend for 2020? 🧐
  • Betty
    January 1, 1970
    Not being able to see the cover of this book (only a placeholder was on Edelweiss at the time), that left only the title itself to make me want to find out what the book was about. The word 'vanishing' probably would have been enough, but for the title to be The Vanishing Half? I definitely wanted to discover what this book was about.The Vignes sisters, Desiree and Stella, are identical twins who grew up in a small black community in Louisiana in the 1950s. Founded by their ancestor in the mid-n Not being able to see the cover of this book (only a placeholder was on Edelweiss at the time), that left only the title itself to make me want to find out what the book was about. The word 'vanishing' probably would have been enough, but for the title to be The Vanishing Half? I definitely wanted to discover what this book was about.The Vignes sisters, Desiree and Stella, are identical twins who grew up in a small black community in Louisiana in the 1950s. Founded by their ancestor in the mid-nineteenth century, the thing that sets the community of Mallard apart is the fact that everyone who lives there has light skin. Running away from home together at sixteen, one sister will leave the other behind when she chooses to pass as white—a decision that forces her to lie to her white husband and their daughter. The other sister ends up back in Mallard, along with her ebony-skinned daughter—who is made to feel like an outcast because of the darkness of her skin. The choices each sister made will alter the course of not only their own lives, but that of their children's, as well.I remember reading historical novels where a character (major or minor) was revealed to be passing for white, but it was always more a plot twist, rather than the point, of the books. This is the first time I've found a book where it was the driving force behind a major character, effecting everything that happened throughout the book—which is precisely why I wanted to read it.The book spans four decades, and is alternately told from the perspectives of Desiree, Stella, and their daughters. Each perspective (and decade) is clearly marked, so there is never any confusion about who the focus is on, or when.Desiree's and Stella's portions of the story were the ones I most wanted to read. It's not that their daughters portions were less interesting (far from it!), but the sisters were the very heart of the story. Regardless of how each chose to live her life, neither sister was free of heartaches, fears, or regrets. Both sisters grieved over the loss of the other, and those feelings were so poignantly written that I grieved right along with them.I won't say much about the daughters portions of the story in this review, so as not to spoil which sister leaves the other behind. The one thing I will say is that one of them had a storyline that was significantly more fascinating to read, thanks to an important person in that daughter's life. I was genuinely surprised when certain revelations came along, and it was so wonderfully written that I doubt I'll ever forget that particular character's role in the story.It's impossible for me to know what it would be like to pass for white in 1950s America, (or any time or place, for that matter) because I am white. I only know that it did happen. I can't know what it must have been like for anyone who did it, but I would assume they would always have been fearful of discovery. I can't begin to imagine the stress it must have caused, nor the heartache. Were there regrets... a wish to go back and undo that decision? Or was there only satisfaction (if successful)? I wonder... I wonder what those real stories would be. It makes me want to search for those books (I only know of one), and it makes me want to find articles (if any) telling the story of an actual person's life. Who they were... why they did it... and how it all worked out (or didn't) in the end. The point of all this is that it made me think—really think—about something I've never had to think about, simply because I was born white. In my opinion, any book that can make you think is well worth the time spent reading it.Bennett has crafted a powerfully moving novel. Impeccably written, The Vanishing Half is filled with characters that will leave a lasting impression, and a story that will leave you with far more to consider than the fictional aspects. Very highly recommended.I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Riverhead Books via Edelweiss.
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  • Smileitsjoy (JoyMelody)
    January 1, 1970
    Wow! I was given an e-galley by the publishers in exchange for an honest review. I was a bit hesitant at first because it started off with a lot of detail which made it move slow at first. But, after the first chapter or two, the story truly began to take shape and WOW what a story it was. Bennett writes such a character-driven inter-generational story that requires you to binge read because you just want to know what happens next. There are points you think "okay, i see where this is going" and Wow! I was given an e-galley by the publishers in exchange for an honest review. I was a bit hesitant at first because it started off with a lot of detail which made it move slow at first. But, after the first chapter or two, the story truly began to take shape and WOW what a story it was. Bennett writes such a character-driven inter-generational story that requires you to binge read because you just want to know what happens next. There are points you think "okay, i see where this is going" and even though it may go the way you predicted how it arrived to that destination is NOTHING like you expected. Bennett's debut novel The Mothers seemed to just be practice for Bennett to develop her skills even further. The Vanishing Half seems to be written by a completely different person but in the best way possible. Each storyline comes full circle. Nothing is wasted. Every word written is important. there is no way that this book doesn't win some type of award. I think Bennett's writing is beautiful and necessary. The plot of the story is everything that is described in the blurb online but at the same time it is everything you don't expect and that is what makes this story even more powerful.
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