Cover Image: The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half

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Member Reviews

Each character in this lively narrative came to life, illuminating a not so distant past as well as the future in the U.S. I appreciate Bennett's candid portrayals that don't dumb events down.  I think her multilayered story of Stella and Desiree elevates the conversation about the human condition, not just race, socioeconomics, sexual identity, and educational opportunity..  I can't wait for excerpts of The Vanishing Half to begin appearing on the AP and IB English exams.  You heard it here first! She's that good!
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Twins split into two worlds as teens in 1960s America - one white, one black. The novel traces the generations a bit before and definitely after. Some elements of how Stella must navigate whiteness brought me back to Passing by Nella Larsen. I loved The Mothers by Brit Bennett and this is an excellent read with a lot to talk about.
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ALL THE STARS! This book deserves all the stars. I am certainly not the first person to read this book and love it. It is already optioned for tv or film and people are already saying that it is their favorite book of the year and rightfully so!  It takes a special book to change a reader. This book did it's job.
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The timing of this book is perfect with everything going on in this world. Brit Bennett weaves an intriguing story of twin sisters who end up on very different paths. If I were in a book club, this would definitely be one of my first picks as a group. There are so many parts of this that I would love to dive into a deep discussion about & to see others' opinions. Definitely recommended!!

**Thank you to NetGalley & the publisher for sharing this ARC in exchange my honest review.
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This book is a masterful portrayal of identity and family—the ones we are born with and the ones we create—the choices we make or don't make, and the way we internalize all of these things as a way to understand ourselves and others in concrete terms (even when we don't fit those unbending molds that have been fashioned.) I loved each of the characters, from the Vignes sisters and their daughters to Early and Reece, and the way that Bennett melds together all of their voices and the different timelines seamlessly, almost poetically. A gorgeous sophomore novel and one that I hope portends more amazing novels to come.
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Wow—Brit Bennett can write a novel. Having read (and loved) The Mother’s, one of my favorite aspects of this book was the way in which she wrote the community of Mallard was genius. The plot itself is riveting, the characters written extremely well. I could not stop thinking about Bennett’s book for weeks after reading.
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This book certainly doesn't need any help from me! I'm so glad to see it's doing well and people are responding to it so strongly. I found this book frustrating at times, but all the characters are so richly imagined and I love Bennett's occasional wall-breaking style of narration.
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What an amazing book and so timely!  The plot of this book encompasses so many themes---family relationships, systemic racism, deceit, secrets, gender and many more.  The writing is superb and this is a book that you truly can't put down.
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Absolutely fantastic.  The characters were complicated, but never boring and you still rooted for them.  I loved every second of reading it.
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A beautifully written family saga that explores the history of systemic racism in the United States. Twin sisters who are both able to “pass”, with one taking that choice and the other trapped in the town they grew up in. From Louisiana to California to NY, across several generations, we are able to see how choices are made and lives ruined just by the color of skin.
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A stunning story of sisterhood, class and race told in beautiful, descriptive prose.  Excellent character development and perfectly paced.  A literary marvel!
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Such a lyrical read. The story swallowed me up immediately and kept me until the last page. I could see that tiny town that didn't exist on a map. Would be a great book club read.
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Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read this book in exchange for my honest review. 

This novel spanned a few decades and followed the lives of two light-skinned black twin sisters, one of whom lives as black, the other as white. It follows the different twists and turns their lives take as they become estranged, have children, and start very different lives. Great read and beautifully written.
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The Vanishing Half is set in The mythical Louisiana town of Mallard during the 1950s where this black community prides itself on their light skin color and strive to marry lighter so that each generation will be lighter than the one before. Desiree and Stella Vignes are identical twin sisters who witness their father’s lynching. Traumatized by that experience, they run away from home. Desiree eventually returns to Mallard while Stella passes as a white woman and lives a privileged life in California. 
The character driven plot explores complex relationships with multiple themes: racism, colorism, racial fluency, and gender themes. For me, Jude and Reese are my favorite characters. In spite of their individual childhood trauma, they were able to block out societal biases and I found their love story to be natural and organic. While there are many lessons and takeaways in this book, it it simply a beautifully written story with so many memorable characters. When I finished the book I immediately wanted to talk to someone to dissect the characters and story-that makes it a 5 star book for me. Thank you NetGalley for the ARC.
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The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett is easily one of, if not, the best read of MY 2020.

I read The Mothers, and although I liked it, it took me a while to finish. This one, however, pulled me in and wouldn’t spit me out until I was finished. When I finished, I wanted more. Because this book is that good.

The quick rundown: Twin sisters, Stella and Desiree, disappear from their small town and form vastly different lives. That’s all I’m going to tell you because you should read this book.

This review is a bit challenging for me to write, if you couldn’t tell (lol). How many ways can a person say that she thought this book was fascinating? While the topic of passing may be new to others, it is not new to me. I grew up in a town with man similarities to Mallard, and I have heard many a story of people doing such. Bennett weaves together a story that is realistic. Sad, but realistic. One that will definitely light the book clubs on fire lol.

In contrast, my only gripe with this book is the character development. I wanted to know more. More about Jude. More about Early. Less about Stella and Kennedy (lol). Their stories are important, I know, because they show the WHY. Why Stella made the choice she made. The extreme differences in their lifestyles. The justification. I understand her why.

I am going to stop here because this book is simply good. The writing is great; the story line is easy to follow. I especially enjoyed reading the different points of view.

This book is out now. Do yourself a favor and read it.
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Two sisters are split apart by race in Brit Bennett’s stunning The Vanishing Half

As kids growing up in the deep South, two light-skinned Black girls play a game: Desiree Vignes dares her twin sister, Stella, to try hiding in plain sight of white people. When Stella discovers that she can pass without effort, the idea never leaves her that she could claim to be white herself. The sisters at the heart of Brit Bennett’s stunning sophomore novel, The Vanishing Half, were born in Mallard, a small Louisiana town where they come of age in the 1950s and ’60s. The Vignes girls’ entire identities in the community, which is known for being colorstruck—favoring light-skinned Black folk—are shaped by their proximity to whiteness.

The Vanishing Half revolves around the myths it is possible to make from our lives. Put another way, the novel reveals the lengths to which people will go for an easier life—possibly even the life of their dreams. Bennett achieves this by carefully granting us access to the deepest fears of two women who take very different paths and by showing the reach of their decisions on their daughters as well as the other people closest to them.

BOOK REVIEW

A-
The Vanishing Half
AUTHOR
Brit Bennett

PUBLISHER
Riverhead

From the story’s opening, the twins are viewed with a sense of intrigue by the Mallard community—both as individuals and, simply, as twins. That enigmatic quality continues even when it’s revealed where Stella disappears to after she and her sister escape their hometown to live together in New Orleans as young women. When Stella is mistaken for white and hired as a secretary, she vanishes into another life. The novel follows the two sisters and the very different daughters they will bear. Jude is the very dark-skinned result of Desiree’s abusive and doomed marriage. Kennedy is, unbeknownst to her, biracial; her white father was Stella’s boss before the two married and moved the family to Los Angeles.

Years later, when Desiree moves back to Mallard with Jude in tow, fleeing her husband, both mother and child become the subject of intense gossip, as Stella’s disappearance continues to hang over her narrative. Bennett expertly conveys how both Desiree and Stella fumble and triumph in their respective, separate lives, while rendering their children’s narratives fully and clearly as well. Jude, who is set on medical school, can run so fast that she earns a scholarship to UCLA, while Kennedy becomes a wayward actress. Jude finds solace and comfort in her steady love of Reese, a man whose life has also been shaped by trying to free himself from an oppressive past.


The Vanishing Half is seamless and suspenseful. The novel manages to be engrossing and surprisingly apolitical—the latter is particularly notable, as passing typically creates questions of morality or ethics even in 2020. Bennett does not write toward the propriety or impropriety of passing—she does not ask us, through Stella, if it is deceitful to pretend to be white in order to avoid the oppressions and restrictions of Blackness. Instead, Bennett writes about passing as one fraught choice Black people had for circumventing the limitations placed on them. Throughout the book, she shows the impact of those choices, intentional or unintentional, on not just an individual, but also an entire family and community. It is clear throughout The Vanishing Half that sometimes becoming someone different becomes a greater weight to bear than remaining stuck in the destiny of one’s old self.

The result is a novel that reads effortlessly. The characters and stakes are both true to the decades they span and the truths they tell about hiding or passing. There is tremendous, timeless wisdom here about what is lost when we do not allow others to see our real selves and what is found again if we free ourselves from their gaze.
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I didn't think I could love another book by Bennett as much as I did her debut! Love a good multigenerational family story.
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This book was amazing!  Brit Bennett has a way of writing that draws you into the story from the beginning.  I would highly recommend reading this book.  It would be a great book club book to read!
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"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."

Identical twins (of Black heritage, but who are white-passing) diverge in adolescence and go on to live out their adulthoods assuming polar opposite racial identities. Talk about a PREMISE! I loved how much of this book talked about the difficulty of burying the past, moving away, and starting over as a new person. This deliberate, painstaking venture through self-expression was explored through many interesting lenses, particularly in Reese's transition and Stella's decision to present as white. Brit Bennett did a very nice job of creating this vivid sense of negative space in each of the novel's settings, effectively communicating the heavy absences of loved ones felt by the characters. I found this book to be a fabulous and impactful commentary on Blackness in America. The plot kept me interested the entire way through the book and the characters all felt three-dimensional and fully realized.
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To say I *loved* this story of twins sisters whose lives swerve into radically different directions in their late teens when one sister decides to pass as white is an understatement. Brit Bennett’s writing is exquisite and she gave me fresh insight into the topics of race, gender, identity, privilege, and family secrets. ⁣
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I can't think of another book where I was so emotionally invested in every single character's story. ⁣
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Book clubs, look no further for your next pick. Penetrating and powerful, this book has left an indelible impression on me. ⁣
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