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Review: The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half

Title: The Vanishing Half
Author: Brit Bennett
Genre: Fiction
Page Count: 352
Published by: Riverhead Books
Date Published: June 2, 2020
You can find it here: Bookshop.org


At sixteen, the Vignes twins – Stella and Desiree – run away from their stifling, small southern black community in the hopes of living grander lives then the years of cleaning wealthy white peoples homes ahead of them. Reliant on each other, the inseparable sisters are determined to make a new way for themselves in the big city.

A decade later Desiree has returned home with her daughter and Stella has disappeared, living a life passing as white. But even though years and many miles separate the twins, life has a way of pulling family together and eventually those deeply buried secrets will come to light.

Spanning decades from the 1950s to the 1990s, The Vanishing Half explores racism, classism, gender, identity, belonging, and the all too powerful, complicated bonds of family.

Overall Thoughts

There isn’t much I can add to the conversation at this point – this story has been rightly praised and accoladed by much smarter, more eloquent people than I. All I can say is, it actually lives up to that mountain of hype. This is simply a really good story.

The first chunk did take a bit for me to warm up to, as Brit Bennett built the backstory, but once I sunk in I was swept away by these characters. In split narrative story lines, it can be especially challenging to develop numerous characters that are fully realized with strong, unique voices, but The Vanishing Half is the exception that proves the rule. Brit Bennett handles four main characters, with brief blips into a fifth, that resonate strongly with the reader wrapped up in a forceful story that thrums with powerful topics of racism, social injustice, transgender and gender identity, belonging, and the complicated bonds of family.

Expertly paced and masterfully wrote, Brit Bennett weaves her numerous storylines and characters brilliantly and while it feels easy to dislike Stella – who decides to pass as white – it is her sections that truly shine in their harrowing exposure of racism, classism, and pain. For those who love a good character driven novel ready to feel the gauntlet of human emotion, The Vanishing Half is a triumph.

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