Cover Image: The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half

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Member Reviews

Stella and Desiree are identical twins growing up in the Jim Crow south. Their town, Mallard, was founded by light skinned blacks, who looked down those with darker skin. The twins run away from home at age 16; Desiree eventually returns to Mallard, while Stella chooses a a very different path. These characters really come alive: the twins, their partners, and their children all make choices which change the course of their lives. The themes of lies and honesty are also examined in Bennett's thought-provoking novel--I just couldn't put it down. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to review this advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
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This is a fascinating read about colorism, class, and authenticity. What I was most struck by was how nearly each character's self-perception was marred in some way - and the tension between hiding parts of you away from others as much as you hide them from yourself. The book is immensely readable, and Bennett does a great job of whirling the reader through time in a way that unfurls information at just the right point in the narrative. I enjoyed reading this book a lot, and I can't wait to see what the TV adaptation turns out like.
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This family drama follows the stories of identical twin sisters who were born in the small, black town of Mallard, Louisiana. At sixteen, the twins run away and eventually lead two very different lives. One of the twins passes as white and hides her past from her family while her sister lives as a black woman and always feels a pull to her twin.  

The story spans from the 1950s to the 1990s and from Louisiana to California and is told from multiple viewpoints. This immersive novel will draw you in and illuminate the reasons why someone might want abandon their roots to live as someone else.
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This is a poignant story about a set of twins that are so “light” that they can “pass” as white.  It follows the life choices of the two sisters where one chooses to liver her life as a black woman and the other who chooses to live in white society.  An additional layer of the story is brought in by the daughters of the sisters.  The sisters are raised in a small black community in Louisiana where people believe the lighter they are, the better life will be.  They run away at sixteen seeking to escape in search of a better future.  That is until Stella disappears from their shared apartment, choosing a life separated from her twin and as a white woman.  The second half of this book focuses on the daughter of Desiree, who chooses to leave home in search for her own identity.  

While racial identity and unconscious bias are the core of the story, I feel the LGBTQ story gets easily glossed over.  It’s truly a story of identity in general.  The struggles as a black person.  The struggles of a black person living as a white person but being friends with a black person.  The struggles of loving someone of the same gender.  The struggles of learning your family isn’t who you thought they were.  The struggles with coming home to confront a life you put behind you.  This book covers so much.  The author does a good job showing the pain, confusion, “ah-ha” moments, love, and hate that each of the characters deal within the book.  

This is a book I would highly recommend!

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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The following review was added to goodreads on 7/06/2020 and the @dc_booknerd Instagram account on July 8th. URL:  https://www.instagram.com/p/CCYsLRopESB/  
Stella and Desiree are identical twins who couldn’t be more different. Stella is neat and clean, while Desiree always leaves a bit of a mess everywhere she goes. Stella is a studious and nervous girl, while Desiree is a dreamer who cannot wait to leave Mallard. Mallard was a idea of their great-great-great grandfather that became reality: a town for people “who would never be accepted as white but refused to be treated like Negroes” because of the lightness of their skin. This fictional small town became a racially homogeneous and snobbish “coloured” town in Louisiana that hated the sight of dark skin. Desiree and Stella decide to leave on Founders Day. They run off in the middle of the night to New Orleans, where they found work at Dixie Laundry. Although it was Desiree’s idea to leave Mallard, Stella is the one who insists they stay in New Orleans even after Desiree starts to regret her decision. Then Stella finds a job as a secretary, a job that she has to be “white” in order to get and keep. She starts dating her white boss Blake and then moves to Boston with him, leaving Desiree with just a note. At this point, the twins lives to in completely different directions. With Blake, Stella becomes white and is free to do what she wants—go to school, own a dream home or just relax all day with a maid to take care of all her household duties. Still, Stella lives in fear that her careful story and life will unravel if the truth is ever found out. After Stella departs, Desiree moves to DC and marries the blackest man she can find, has a daughter and then returns to Mallard after her husband become increasingly more violent. Back in Mallard, Desiree says they will leave but makes a life for herself and her daughter but still looks for her lost twin.
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This book tackles many issues with our society from racial tensions, sexuality and gender norms to skin tone preferences that bring to mind the doll test and the racial self-hate that was perpetuated for centuries by slavery, segregation and Jim Crow. One of the most interesting story lines within this novel was Stella’s interaction with her black neighbor, Loretta, and how Stella takes tentative steps towards establishing a friendship but ultimately chooses to mirror the white mothers that she saw growing up instead of reflecting how those mothers made her feel. Overall, a great read that artfully weaves together various accounts and narratives over the course of decades and shows the falseness of the American Dream.
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I actually got aoproved for The Vanishing Half after I'd already purchased and read the hardcover, but I'm thrilled to have been approved to read the ARC if only to say thank you to Brit Bennett and Penguin/Riverhead books for this brilliant novel. There are undoubtedly a gazillion reviews of the plot, two Black sisters and their very different journeys as the navigate America from the 1950s to the 1990s, but I have to say that rarely have I been so moved by a novel.

The Vanishing Half asks a lot of questions that are incredibly relevant right now but it also has a lot to say (and say exquisitely) about how we craft ourselves; how we shift and shape the identities we’re born with and those we create.

The Vanishing Half is one of the best novels I've read in 2020 and is very highly recommended.
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Thank you NetGalley and publishers for an ARC. All opinions are my own.

This is an incredible read! I absolutely loved her novel, The Mothers, and The Vanishing Half did not disappoint. She does an incredible job painting vivid characters that feel like friends. Her craft of writing is beautiful and well establishef and I enjoy her style of storytelling. This story shares the idea of how environment can change human behavior as well as how one looks. Highly recommend!
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I don't know why I waited so long to read this. My heart broke and soared so many time. This was absolutely spectacular.
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It's an excellent, heartbreaking story of twins whose lives diverge after running away from their small town to the big city. I loved how Desiree and Stella's linked and individual lives were examined, expressed, and enriched over the years.
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This is a unique story.  It took me awhile to get into it but the further along I got in the book, the more I was loving the characters.   I honestly cared what happened to all of them and was hoping for the best for them.  I enjoyed the book and highly recommend it.  My library owns at least one copy of this book already and I hope to listen to the audio version someday.
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This is the story of twins girls growing up in rural Louisiana that rebel against the structure of their family and town.  Each rebels in her own way.  One passes herself as white and marries a white man, the other marries a Black man and has a dark-skinned daughter. Their back stories will keep you turning the pages.  As well as the stories of each of their daughters.  The novel really makes you think about the choices people make and the consequences. These are complex characters that haven’t been portrayed before.
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The Vanishing Half was a compulsively readable and incredibly beautifully written book. I really enjoyed The Mothers and this one was just as good. The characters are full of depth and the story is profound in the many different avenues it guides your thoughts. I will definitely be handselling this title.
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Yes, deservedly a bestseller. A clever, unpredictable fable that works as a commercial read while always sticking to its careful, thoughtful consideration of race and identity.
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The Vanishing Half explores the lives of twin sisters, one of whom chooses to live her life as a white woman and one who chooses to live her life as a Black woman. The story follows the two women and the choices they make in love, parenting, and life in general. Their choices affect the lives of their children as well. A very well-written and thought-provoking story.
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An astounding tale of a splintered family living parallel lives. Race, gender, class - it’s all covered in this amazing book.
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There were so many coincidences in this book that it definitely makes one think about fate. The overall concept of this book blew my mind. This book is for anyone who felt like an other. There were so many quotes in it I loved. I'm not sure what's holding holding me back from giving 5 stars. Maybe because it's so hyped up; it can be hard to live up to. However, I 100% recommend this to everyone.
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Although the story was a bit slow at times, I really enjoyed this book! I was invested in each character’s story and how their lives and paths connected over time. This is a book about family, generations, loneliness, race, class, and gender. Beautifully written and thought provoking - would recommend! 

I would like to thank NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.
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Different in scope, but no lesser in ambition, Bennet delivers another poignant story about what it means to be a woman of color in a world pretending to be color blind.
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The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett is by far one of the best novels I’ve read in the first half of 2020. It’s a multigenerational journey from the 1950s to the 1980s into the lives of the Vignes family, down-home Black folks who live in a segregated Louisiana town called Mallard. What’s quite unique about this community is that all the inhabitants are light-skinned Blacks, probably one shade darker than vanilla, and whose founder created the town after his freedom from slavery. For generations, the intended and understood goal is to keep future generations “light, bright, and damn near white”—not stated in the novel. And herein lies the beginning of the controversy for twin sisters Desiree and Stella Vignes. They both begin to realize with unmistakable clarity that their fair skin does not protect them from the harms of mid-twentieth century racism, poverty, and other forms of societal deprivation. Each of the sister-halves takes an untrodden path with long-lasting and sometimes unexpected results.
The “Half” in the novel’s title sets the stage for dualities not only for the sisters but also for others in the story line. There are comings and goings; secrets and frankness; complacency and ambition; and denial of family and the search for self. Coupled with the ensnarements of racism, sibling rivalry, gender identity, classism, colorism, secrecy, and complex relationships, the story never fails to educate and entertain.
Bennett, as a gifted novelist, is at her best here in creating an undeniably beautiful, raw fictional world.
With sincere thanks to the publisher The Penguin Group Riverhead Books and NetGalley for an opportunity to read this novel, which I hope will win numerous prizes! 

Shirlene Bridgewater
AKA Writing Soul (Goodreads) and sbwritingreadingsoul (Instagram)
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This book is so timely. It's about racial identity, choices and circumstances. I love Brit Bennett's writing. The characters are complex and I wasn't able to put this book down.
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