Cover Image: The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half

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Member Reviews

Brit Bennett's novel freed me from the pandemic isolation, which is not an easy thing to do lately since I have been so distracted and my attention span is like a pinball machine.  Once  I read the blurb knowing it was an Oprah book, I had a fairly good idea of what the novel would be diving into, and it certainly did the traditional Oprah dive, but Bennett is such a masterful writer that the novel held together nicely and the themes didn't feel forced.

The novel takes place from the 1950s to 1990s, beginning in a small town not too far from New Orleans, in a town that lost its place on the map over the years, a town that prided itself on being a light-skinned black town. The main characters are the light-skinned, restless Vignes identical twin sisters, who pack up at sixteen and head to NOLA, imaging a better life away from their small town, after their mother tells them that they have to quit school and find jobs to help out financially, destroying the dreams of college and other pursuits.  

After a couple of years, the twins separate, the one becomes a secretary and passes as white, marrying her wealthy boss and becoming the mother of a light skinned daughter, while the other marries a dark-skinned  attorney and has a dark-skinned daughter.  Much of the novel focuses on racial identity, yet, Jude, the dark-skinned daughter falls in love with a transexual, so racial identity also plays into the novel.

I do wish we had seen more of the daughters together with their mother, because once they head off on their separate ways, they don't seen each other for decades.  Jude and her mother return to the family home to live with her grandmother, whom she hadn't met, and that twin stays there for decades, while Jude leaves to run track in California, where she discovers her cousin, and this is where much of the novel takes place.   

Engaging novel with interesting, if not necessarily likable characters.
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I literally did not want this story to end. I wanted to keep on reading but I didn’t want to get to the end of the story. I loved following all of these characters, I loved each of their stories. This is a story about finding yourself and staying true to yourself. It is also about the pull of family and the importance of it. This is a story about only letting you be the one to define you. And it was so brilliantly written. I loved every moment of it. Jude is my favorite though, she felt the most honest to
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After reading her debut novel The Mothers, Bennett instantly became a must-read author for me and her sophomore book did not disappoint. In fact, this is this best 2020 release I’ve read this year. The Vanishing Half follows two 16-year-old twins, Stella and Desiree, who flee the close-knit Black community where they’ve been raised to experience the broader world. One twin ends up back in that very community while the other vanishes again, passing as white and leaving her sister and her past behind. The book then expands across decades to tell the story of how Stella and Desiree are forever linked even when they’re apart. This book was nothing short of spectacular. The story is riveting and suspenseful, and Bennett manages to impart a sense of impending doom and the possibility of hope throughout the entire story. Her writing is arresting, and I kept stopping to reread particularly sparkling sentences. Mostly, I was blown away how Bennett tells such a singular and specific story that unpacks so much about race in America as well as the innate human desire for acceptance and belonging. This is a must-read!
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The Vignes twin sisters grew up together but ran away at sixteen. Readers are taken through how different their lives turned out, from the color of their skin to their families and communities. Spanning over multiple years, locations and generations, Bennett takes readers on journey that won't soon be forgotten.
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The Vanishing Half is an incredibly powerful story about identity, family and acceptance. Perhaps more importantly, it is also about race, expectations, history and connection. Spanning nearly 50 years and told from the perspective of multiple characters that are well developed and immensely engaging, this book is a must read!
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So many people have praised this book to high heaven. I wish I could be on board with them. It seemed to take ¾ of the book to get to the story, through the build-up of the characters, and then just seemed to be over. I found it so very disjointed.
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I absolutely adored this book. To be able to follow these characters through the years was an honor. I knew them. I felt their pain. I cheered them on. Great story, people I wanted to hear about and know. Great book!!!
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I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The Vanishing Half is a thought provoking book about identical twins, the choices they make, and how different their paths in life are, because of those decisions.. Brit Bennett does an excellent job developing interesting characters that you care about and want to find out what happen to. I enjoyed reading this book and look forward to future books by Brit Bennett.
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The Vanishing Half touched on some big topics, but mostly this was a book about identity and how we decide for ourselves who we want to be.  The story begins with two light-skinned twins whose lives take completely different paths based upon how they decide to identify their race and themselves.  Ultimately, every character we meet is struggling with their identity, who they are and who they end up becoming.  When I stepped back to look at the whole story with this perspective it helped me enjoy it better.  I felt like just when we were starting to know a character that part ended and we jumped somewhere else.  Again, maybe this also adds to the struggle to get to know someone because that's how I felt all throughout the book.  It was well written, overall.  I don't know if I would have ended it the way the author chose to end it, but again, it was a book worth reading.
Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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I really enjoyed this book. I ended up finishing most of it in a day. This book tells the story of two twins who end up on very different paths in life. Stella and Desiree end up leaving their small Louisiana town before they are even finished high school. Things go well at first, but one sister takes a leap and the other flounders. The years pass and eventually, by some stroke of luck, their daughters meet and start to piece together what happened all those years ago.
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This was such a beautiful book, I really don't know where to start!  I was immediately pulled into their wold, their situations, and I cared about each and everything that happened to these characters!  One very light skinned twin vanishing into the white world and the other bringing home an anomaly for the town they grew up in; a very dark skinned child.  

Heavy topics; domestic abuse, lynching and other cruelties were written about in such a way that we were able to see how they affected each individual character and their choices for the future.  I loved how unique each character was, as well, no tropes or stereotypes, just beautiful writing.

I will definitely be seeking out more from Ms. Bennett!  A remarkable book!
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When I first heard about the premise of this book, I thought of Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing. This book definitely has echoes of that, but I liked that we didn’t just abandon the characters when we moved on to the next generation—we got to see how their story turned out. I also just read Brit Bennett’s first book, The Mothers, which I enjoyed, but I definitely liked this one better. Both books deal with the theme of a single choice in youth echoing throughout a person and their loved ones’ lives, but somehow, this book seemed to have more weight to it. Bennett seems to be maturing as a writer, can’t wait to see what she does next.
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This was a very well-written book with an engaging plot and deep themes which were expertly weaved across different characters, times, and storylines. Identity: where it comes from, who is in charge of it, what it means, and countless other manifestations was one of the big themes throughout the novel and I have continued to contemplate many of these questions in the weeks since finishing this novel. Definitely worth a read.

I received an advanced digital copy of this book via NetGalley.
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This book is still making me think, and it will be the type of book that will continue making me think months/years later. This is my first Brit Bennett but I will definitely be reading The Mothers and anything else she writes. 

"White folks kill you if you want too much, kill you if you want too little." The Vanishing Half is about twins Desiree and Stella Vignes who grow up in Mallard, Louisiana. Mallard is a town filled with light skinned black people - everyone is light skinned and being light is prized above all else. Desiree and Stella are descendants of the founder of Mallard and everyone has opinions about the Vignes twins. Then, at 16 years old, they vanish without a trace and no one from the town hears from them until 14 years later when Desiree returns to Mallard with bruises on her neck and her very dark skinned daughter. The Vanishing Half follows Desiree and Stella: Desiree who opposes all that Mallard instilled in her by marrying a dark skinned black man; Stella who goes the complete opposite and begins to pass for white. Desiree, who's decision leads her back to Mallard and Stella who's decision leads her to the inner circles of white privilege. The Vanishing Half also follows Desiree and Stella's daughters, Jude and Kennedy, who's lives are shaped by their mother's decisions in ways they could never imagine. 

I really loved this book. The first 20% I struggled: I think more because I needed to get the vibe of the story and Bennett's writing. But after 20% the book takes off. I found myself way more intrigued by Jude's story most of all: her experiences in Mallard, a town that was founded as a refugee for slaves after the Civil War ended, are horrifying. The colorism is blatant and really hard to read. Then as Jude grows up, we see her experience so much love and joy and uncertainty. I found myself rooting for her so hard, and I wasn't expecting her at all. 

"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". I also really enjoyed reading Stella's perspective - why she decided to pass for white, how it impacted her relationships, her friendships. How she treats other black people and the ways she raises her daughter. This was a book about familial relationships: what it means to be a sister, to have half of your body live elsewhere. What does it mean to be a mother or a daughter. How do you protect those around you when you can't always be with them? There are so many triggers: abuse, death, sexual assault, homophobia and transphobia. So much I didn't know would be woven so beautifully into this book.

Overall, this book will probably be one of my favorites of 2020. I am so glad I read it. 

**this review has been posted on Goodreads and will be posted on Instagram (@literaryintersections) a week before publication.
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I loved Brit Bennett's first book and was SO excited to see this second one from her! Bennett is such a talented writer - I strongly recommend this book!
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The Vanishing Half grabbed my attention with its stunning cover, and the beautiful storytelling inside held me to the end. This story of two twin sisters whose lives go in very different directions because of their choices explores notions of family and belonging, race, class, and gender. Bennett's exquisite writing transports the reader into the different settings and communities as she traces the connections and disconnections which make us who we are.

#NetGalley, #TheVanishingHalf
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Captivating and thought-provoking, as it touches on difficult subjects of lynching, prejudice, betrayal, and trauma. The characters are beautifully drawn with all their complexities and inner lives capturing the spectrum of their experience.
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Twin sisters raised in the small southern black community where each generation strives to become "lighter." At 16 years old, the girls flee town and choose completely opposite paths. Great characters, plot, and family dynamics with lots of food for thought.
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I did not think that Brit Bennett could top The Mothers but I think I was even more blown away by The Vanishing Half. Desiree and Stella Vignes are twin sisters who leave their small southern town to find different paths in life. This story looks deeply at racial identify, how our personal history informs so many of our life choices, and  what it means to find your true self in the world. Brit Bennett’s writing style is both beautiful and powerful. I reread several paragraphs just to let her words truly sink in. This book is thought-provoking, heartbreaking, and uplifting all at once. I cannot recommend The Vanishing Half enough.

Thank you to Brit Bennett, Riverhead Books, and NetGalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Inseparable, identical twins Desiree and Stella run away from home at age 16. When Stella takes off on her own, the two end up living very different lives. Spanning decades, The Vanishing Half deftly explores race, family ties and how the past shapes the future. If you liked Bennett's The Mothers, this is even better!
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