Like many people, I had high hopes for 2020. I had not only planned to explore more of Australia; I too had aspired to read more books, more authors; and more classics than ever before. But alas, first came the bushfires, and then Covid hit, and while I’ve had more time on my hands than I ever thought I would in my adult life, I’ve found my attention span has suffered somewhat at all the extra hours I’ve been afforded. And in something of a double blow to a book blogger like myself, not only has my readiness to read taken a hit; so too has my inclination to blog about the books that I’ve been reading.
Regular readers of this blog may well have noticed a lag in the frequency of my posts. And while I’m hesitant to make any promises about upping my blogging game (we are, after all, living through a global pandemic), there’s something about both the beginning of spring, and September being so synonymous with the start of a new school year that has stirred in my belly the dream of a fresh start; and a want and a hope to start and writing once more. Lucky for me, a book I read of late was just the tonic I needed to sit down and start blogging again. And while I can’t remember who first recommended The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett to me, I know it will be some time before I forget this awe-inspiring book.
The Vanishing Half Book Review
Los Angeles-based Brit Bennet’s second novel, The Vanishing Half is the timeless tale of the Vignes twin sisters, who – while born identical – grow up to live two very different lives. Born in 1938 in Mallard, a small town in Louisiana, while their fair appearance may disguise their negroe heritage, they are very much part of the black community. The girls’ own father died at the hands of white men; a heartache that has never stopped haunting the twins, and when they are forced to leave school at sixteen to supplement the family’s income, their hopes for a better future are brutally crushed – until the girls run away from home to start a new life in New Orleans.
Years later, the sisters have lost contact with each other. Desiree will return to her hometown with her young daughter in tow, on the run from her violent husband, while Stella has married a rich white man who knows nothing of her past. What follows is a story about the choices that end up defining who we really are, in which the twins’ daughters will ultimately discover both their roots and the key to their long-lost identify.
Rich with vividly drawn characters, a compelling plot and beautifully written prose, the story line spans across the decades as Bennett seamlessly intertwines the lives of each of the characters.
A tale of family, identity, race, history, perception, compassion, and roots, you’ll be thinking about The Vanishing Half long after you turn the final page.
The Vanishing Half Summary
From the author of the New York Times bestseller THE MOTHERS, a powerful new novel about the parallel lives of estranged twin sisters who 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’ story lines 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.
Brit Bennett Author Bio
Born and raised in Southern California, Brit Bennett graduated from Stanford University and later earned her MFA in fiction at the University of Michigan, where she won a Hopwood Award in Graduate Short Fiction as well as the 2014 Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers. Her work is featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, and Jezebel. She is one of the National Book Foundation’s 2016 5 Under 35 honorees.
More Brit Bennett Books
If you liked The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, you may also enjoy: The Mothers.