The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half

A Novel

eBook - 2020
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AN INSTANT #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A GOOD MORNING AMERICA Book Club Pick!

"Bennett's tone and style recalls James Baldwin and Jacqueline Woodson, but it's especially reminiscent of Toni Morrison's 1970 debut novel, The Bluest Eye." —Kiley Reid, Wall Street Journal

"A story of absolute, universal timelessness ...For any era, it's an accomplished, affecting novel. For this moment, it's piercing, subtly wending its way toward questions about who we are and who we want to be...." – Entertainment Weekly

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. Many 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.
Published: Penguin Publishing Group

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brooklynnbridge
Sep 17, 2020

I read The Mothers and really liked it and loved The Vanishing Half. This book is the perfect book club read. As a member of an African American book club the ladies in the group found so many themes and elements in the book that we were able to relate to. Discussion of colorism within the AA community, marrying for a more comfortable life or for love and estranged family relationships. The discussion went on and on and on. We even had teams, Team Stella and Team Desiree. What road would you choose? Brit Bennett is a local author who can create characters that jump off the pages and situations that keep the pages turning. If you can't find a copy of the book try it on audio, it's storytelling at its finest!

STPL_Kerry Sep 14, 2020

I loved 'The Mothers' and this new book by Brit Bennett definitely did not disappoint. Bennett has such a talent for story telling and creating characters that you really get invested in. Two sisters; two parallel lives that turn out so differently based on which fork in the road they take. Such a beautiful story about family and love and fate and creating your destiny. A must read.

t
trickbag22
Sep 12, 2020

A town of colored folks who are all light enough to pass. Two twin sisters run away. One decides to take on a white identity and the other embraces her ancestry and falls in love with the darkest man she can find. The twins do not see or know where the other is for over 20 years but their daughters meet, one raised white with no knowledge of her mother’s past and the other in love with a transgender.
This whole scenario is the backdrop for a commentary on identity. Where does it come from? Can we make our own? Can we drown our past? A thought provoking story which stays with you

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BARosen1112
Sep 11, 2020

Beautifully written novel by the author of The Mothers, about twin sisters, one of whom decides to pass as white, and that decision's affect on three generations of family: their mother, the twins themselves, and their daughters. Brit Bennett takes us deep inside the heads of her characters, and it's both an enlightening and deeply moving story. Highly recommended.

m
maggielo
Sep 03, 2020

Blk Twins, one tries to live a different life.

Chapel_Hill_KrystalB Sep 01, 2020

I still haven't read The Mothers, but surely will now. This book, her sophomore effort, was fantastic. I'm a character reader, and it does not disappoint in that area... or any area really. What works incredibly well here is the unfolding (un-spooling, more like) of each character, across decades, and their connections to one another. And the exploration of race, reckonings and all, feels true to each- as gross and frustrating as it can be. In other words, there is no easy or convenient conclusion at any point; no simplistic or insincere bows wrapping up anything here. Solid from start to finish.

l
laphampeak
Aug 12, 2020

A rather creative idea, Bennett creates the town of Mallard where the acceptable residents are Blacks of a light color where twins Stella and Desiree eventually separate and live their own lives. Desiree marries a dark skinned man and Stella steps into the white world where she shifts her identity and hides as a white women. It's an interesting way to present a world seen through a black women's facade of living white. The story unfolds each of their journeys and tie to family.

t
tennillecampbell
Aug 10, 2020

recommended by Margot

TSCPL_Miranda Aug 10, 2020

Stunning!! An unforgettable read. The Vanishing Half examines public and private identity, secrets, freedom, and family. The book begins with the story of twins Stella and Desiree Vignes, two beautiful girls who you wouldn't know were black if you didn't meet them in their small, Louisiana hometown. Mallard was founded by the twins' grandfather, and while all of the residents are black, they are all light, and that lightness is celebrated and embraced as superior to darker skin. The twins are pulled out of school at sixteen to help their mother by working and paying bills. They see a life stretching ahead of them with work, marriage, and children, so they leave to seek a different destiny in New Orleans. It is there that their paths diverge, when Stella takes a good job in a department store usually only offered to white girls, because they don't ask if she's black, and she does not tell them. Desiree sees Stella put on the identity of "white Stella" before she leaves for work, an actor playing a part. When Stella meets a white man, she makes the choice to keep her secret, leading her to a life far away from her twin, and her roots. Meanwhile, Desiree moves to Washington, D.C., where she works as a fingerprint analyst and marries a dark-skinned black man. In time, her marriage becomes abusive and violent, so she escapes to her home town to live with her mother. It would be easy for the reader to take sides, and for the author to paint Stella as one-dimensional, selfish and cold, the woman who "killed the people who'd loved her" by leaving them behind. Instead, Bennett lets us inside of Stella's head and life, too, so that we can see how she fell into the trap of isolation and lies that bind her to a false life.
Of course, the choices that Desiree and Stella made shaped the lives of their daughters. Stella has a blond daughter, Kennedy, who grows up with all of the privileges that whiteness and money provide, while Desiree's daughter Jude is so dark that she is called "blueblack." Jude does not fit in, a dark outsider in the town that her grandfather founded. She finds solace in books and education, and takes an opportunity to get out by attending college in California. There, a chance meeting leads to an encounter with Stella, her mother's twin, the aunt who vanished so long ago, and her cousin, Kennedy. After Jude reaches out to Kennedy and shows her a photo of their mothers together as young women, nothing in Kennedy's life feels real. She feels as though, like her mother, she has been playing a part.
In a compelling counterpart to the story of the twins, Jude meets and falls in love with Reese, a trans man. Like Stella, Reese chose to leave his past and his family behind, but in contrast, Reese was motivated by the need to be his true self. As Jude seeks to understand why and how Stella could have cut herself off from her family, she also considers Reese's actions, as well as other friends in the queer community who lay low or play a part to avoid persecution or exclusion.
The Vanishing Half is told with compassion for all of the characters, and though the themes of the book are serious, I found it impossible to put down. The ending is uplifting and hopeful, as the younger generation strides into a future founded on truth. I cried several times while reading this book, but the tears at the end were the happy kind.

Gina_Vee Aug 05, 2020

I loved this book. It reminds me of some of Zora Neale Hurston's writing.

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