Cover Image: The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half

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Member Reviews

I don't really know how I can even review Brit Bennett's The Vanishing Half, except to say it's a masterpiece.

I could write 27 PhD dissertations on this book, and I don't think I'd ever finish talking about it. Wow. How Bennett packed so much into 352 pages, I'll never know. And quite frankly, I think it's one of few books that could use even more hype than it's already gotten. It's just that good.

The Vanishing Half is a million love stories rolled up into one, a complicated and ever-expanding family drama, a critique on race and racism and colorism and class in America, and so much more. I could've read a million more pages of this utterly beautiful and complex and heartbreaking novel.

Again, I don't really think my words could do it justice. You'll just have to go seek it out for yourself.
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One of the best books of 2020 for me.  The story of Stella, Desiree and Jude is one of self preservation, self discovery and tolerance.   The Vanishing Half examines the last, the future and how society helps define.  Brit Bennett creates characters I loved.  Through the story’s of each woman I fully escaped and “climbed into their skin” so much to talk about with this book and it will stay with me for a very long time
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Can you be what you're not?  In this beautifully written book Brit Bennett tells the story of twin sisters and their daughters, both light skinned enough to pass for white.  Desiree marries a dark-skinned man who treats her badly and, having both run away together from their backwater place - not even a town - returns home to live with her widowed mother and raise her dark-skinned daughter.  Stella abandons Desiree , half-inadvertently passes for white, marries a wealthy white man and moves to California, where she raises her daughter, telling neither her husband nor her daughter of her lineage.  All the women struggle, in various ways, to find their identities.  But Stella, who tried to live her life pretending to be what she wasn't, has the most difficult struggle of all.  Bennett's book illustrates the huge disparities that are all so timely.  Highly recommended.
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Thank you to Netgalley and publishers for the review copy.

The Vanishing Half tells the story of twins, Desiree and Stella who grow up to become estranged, living completely different lives. An inter-generational story, The Vanishing Half, takes a close look inside race, gender and family. Bennett is a wonderful writer who knows how to draw you in. I highly recommend this title for those interested in family dynamics and coming of age.
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I really enjoyed this book, so much so that I wish there were more of each character. I wish that there were less time jumps and we got more story about each character. It felt like every time I was really getting into the story and setting with each character there was a time jump. Overall though I liked it a lot.
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What an incredible book. Spanning multiple decades, the vanishing half follows the Vignes sisters, Stella and Desiree. They grew up in a small Louisiana town and in their teens moved to New Orleans. One day Stella disappears and we later find out that she married a white man and is living a new life passing as a white woman. Desiree has a child with a black man and moves back to their home town. •
The twins live drastically different lives, Stella living in an upper class neighborhood in California with a rich white husband and Desiree working in a diner in Louisiana, caring for her mother. •
The book discusses race, privilege, shame, deceit and more. I absolutely loved how this book was written with the alternating timelines and points of view. I feel like I can’t do this book justice with any sort of review so definitely order a copy & read it!! I’ll definitely be picking up a physical copy for my bookshelf! 5/5⭐️
Thank you @riverheadbooks for my review copy💛
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Brit Bennett is a gifted writer who handles an interesting subject with graceful prose. This novel deals with so many realistic characters and events. The story is fascinating - touching on racism, privilege, life choices, sexual identity, loneliness and family - I could not put it down. What would happen if different choices had been made in life? What gives a person his/her identity? What is family? All of these questions are brought to light both by the twin sisters and by their daughters. I think it would be interesting to discuss the book with a person of color - the whole idea of covering/hiding one's race is hard to imagine.
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The Vanishing Half
A Novel
by Brit Bennett
 Read an Excerpt
Riverhead Books
Literary Fiction | Women's Fiction
Pub Date 02 Jun 2020   |   Archive Date 02 Aug 2020

What a great book about twins and the struggles they go through.  You may want to put this one on the top of your TBR list.  Thanks to Net Galley and Penguin Group Riverhead for the ARC.  
5 star
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Two twin sisters who grow up in a small Louisianna town make the personal decision to live apart. One twin lives her life as a wealthy white woman and one twin stays in her small Louisiana town as a black woman.  What a wonderful novel and so important to read in today's world.
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Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half follows a premise that could feel familiar,  (twins disappear from their small town), but she layers it with race, class, and family dynamics that make this novel stand on its own. Bennett’s narration style is so fluid and unique, moving through time and through narrators seamlessly within each chapter. She is able to examine the phenomenon of passing, (and how it affects the interactions of a small Black community), with both a historical and modern lens. But most stunningly, this novel captures explores the complexities of love and family—how we recreate or shift our expectations of love when what is in the immediate is not enough. Bennett deepens the understanding of what a challenging love looks like, and how it triumphs  or spoils when we defy social expectations.
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In The Vanishing Half, Mallard, Louisiana is a town where the people are “Negroes” and yet look as white as the white people who both loathe and are perplexed by them. And in Mallard, the Vignes girls are twins, and minor celebrities as descendants of the town’s founder, a man who created the place as a refuge for those Negroes who looked white and could, if they so chose, “pass over” and live their lives as white. But that is the puzzle of Mallard and of colorist in general — most of these folks don’t want to be white, they don’t however want to be Black-Black either. The two Vignes girls, Stella and Desiree, at the age of sixteen run off to New Orleans escaping the stifling expectations of Mallard and their mother’s declining fortunes which has her cleaning the houses of white women just to get by after her husband’s death.

One sister, Desiree, chooses to live her life as the Black woman she is, the other vanishes without warning into life as a white woman, leaving her Blackness and her twin sister behind. The effect and consequences of this, both emotionally and intergenerationally are the crux of this novel. I found it a painful read, because of the portrayal of what Black people lost and the compromises they made to gain the benefits that came from proximity to whiteness. I especially liked reading about Jude, Desiree’s “blue-black” daughter who suffers when her mother returns with her to Mallard, enduring the casual cruelties of her almost-white peers, and the confusing aggression from boys who both desire her but are taught to hate her and themselves for doing so. They victimize Jude but are themselves victims of a society that values whiteness and closeness to it. Jude’s experience as a dark-skinned girl and then woman is the flip side of her mother’s experience with Jude’s father, a man much darker than her who both loved and loathed his wife’s lightness.

I waited and was eager for Brit Bennet’s sophomore novel because something about ‘The Mothers’ moved me, though I’m still not sure what. I can only imagine that it was the way she writes about identity, and not just racial identity though this book is definitely about that. She also writes in this novel, as she did in her first, stirringly about motherhood, and about notions of home and the urge to return, even when home may have been a place that caused you pain. But central to this novel, I think, may be the idea of loss. Maybe that’s why Brit Bennett’s work leaves me so moody. Moody, but never feeling incomplete. I recommend.
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The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett! You may want to put this one on your to be read list! Twins, one "passing" and one not, and the story showing how different their lives are. Relevant to today's struggles, not just concerning race, but also sexuality.
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"The Vanishing Half" by Brit Bennett, Riverhead Books, 352 pages, June 2, 2020.

In 1954, Desiree Vignes and her twin, Stella, 16, run away from their small, southern town of Mallard, Louisiana. People search for them, but eventually learn they went to New Orleans.

Although the twins are black, their skin color is like light, wet sand. Everyone in town has light-colored skin. Their mother, Adele, is a widow. She told the twins they have to drop out of high school to work and they ran away. Stella is devastated. She wants to become a teacher.

Fourteen years later, Desiree comes back. She is seen walking to town, holding a little girl's hand. Desiree's daughter, Jude, is black. Desiree left her husband, Sam Winston, who was abusive. 

The twins split up six months after they ran away. Desiree doesn't know how to reach Stella. Desiree's husband hires Early Jones to find Desiree. Stella has been passing for white. Her white husband doesn't know about her past.

The novel then jumps forward to 1978 and focuses on Jude, a college student in California. Jude is working for a caterer at a party one night when she sees a woman who looks exactly like Desiree. It is Stella.

This is a novel about racism and the way identity is formed. It is excellently paced and mesmerizing. It is told from multiple perspectives. Bennett's characters are all flawed and are dealing with loss and heartbreak. This is the second novel from the author of the best-selling "The Mother's."

In accordance with FTC guidelines, the advance reader's edition of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a review.
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An epic, heart tugging story of twin sisters, their troubled childhood and how their lives diverged in adulthood, although still with insurmountable obstacles.  An unforgettable story of how are differences don’t define us but make us the same.
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I loved this story! Timely. Relevant. Always relevant. I instantly fell in love with the characters and I was cheering for them the entire time. I learned a lot. I will recommend this to all my friends.
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"The Vanishing Half" is thought-provoking and well written, but I struggled to connect with it. The book is centered around Desiree and Stella, two black sisters growing up in a small Louisiana town. Identical twins, they leave home as teenagers, with Desiree eventually marrying a black man and returning to Louisiana, and Stella marrying a white man and moving to California. Stella hides her true identity from her husband, but she and Desiree each have daughters who end up crossing paths. The book changes locations and characters from section to section, and I wish more time had been spent with characters and settings for them to leave a stronger impression. I love the writing and the author's thoughtful commentary on race, identity, and families, but this wasn't as compelling as I hoped it would be.
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The Vanishing Half is an impressive and timely piece of literature. Brit Bennett's writing is simple in terms of style yet in that simplicity she manages to tackle the complexities and harsh realities of life. The novel chronicles the life of the Vignes twins Stella, who passes for white, and
Desiree who does not. Their story is laid out brilliantly in a mostly linear timeline with some flashbacks as Ms. Bennett takes us into the tumultuous world of the Vignes twins, which includes their romantic and platonic relationships, their daughters lives, and through those interactions the reader can see how haunted Stella, Desiree, Adele, Jude, Early and Kennedy were by Stella's leaving her old life behind to pass for white. The characters are flawed yet their flaws made them more accessible. For example, I am not sure I liked Stella but I always understood her plight. What I enjoyed most was the way Ms. Bennett illustrated that not all that glitters is gold and once a Black person decides to shed their Blackness, one of the most difficult aspects, other than leaving your family behind, is the nefarious manner in which the notion of white superiority is adapted, it no longer about living a better life but who are you willing destroy to keep that ruse hidden and then realizing you have the power to do so. The side characters where delightful and popped off the pages by either enhancing the positives or magnifying the negatives of the lead characters, in my opinion they were crucial and not superfluous to the story. Towards the end I wanted to know more about all characters but the denouement where some truths were exposed and some truths were not, was satisfying none the less. This was a five star read for me.
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This is the story of identical twin sisters, Desiree and Stella Vignes. They are born in the small town of Mallard, Louisiana, which is celebrated for its African American residents being extremely light-skinned. But in the South, "light" is still black. After witnessing the violent lynching of their father at a very young age, the twins are raised by their single mother, who takes them out of school as teenagers, so that they can earn money cleaning for a white family. But this is not the life the twins want, so they run away to the city. Soon, their lives veer apart in very different ways. Desiree goes on to marry a black man and have a child with him, but Stella learns she can "pass" as white, and takes this to the extreme, marrying a white man and living undiscovered in a white community. She leaves Mallard, her old life, and even her twin sister behind her. This book is amazing, and truly one of the best things I've read this year. The writing is beautiful and the story is incredibly gripping. I will say, the first third or so, is a bit slow, with lots of (necessary) background, but then there is a moment where everything changes and you won't be able to put it down. It's a fascinating look at racism, colorism, and family, and is quite simply, a really, really wonderful book. I loved it.
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Racial identity and gender identity are the backbones of this novel. What makes us who we are? The struggle is made real in this novel of people trying to be true to themselves. The characters are not super developed as the reader doesn't overly agonize with them but the world in which they travel creates the tension that moves the story forward. Thought provoking and timely.

Thanks to NetGalley and Riverhead Books/Penguin Group for the ARC to read and review.
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THE VANISHING HALF is a stunning, epic tale from the magnificent Brit Bennett. The story is unlike anything I've read before -- twin sisters who are brought up in a small town in Louisiana run away at 16, but then their lives diverge as one decides to "pass over" and live as a White women, while the other moves back in with their mother and her daughter. The story takes us from the 1960s to the 1980s as their decisions reverberate throughout the decades and begin to affect their children. It's a thrilling ride, with twists and turns constantly surprising the reader. Bennett's writing is unique and fantastic, and this story both surprising and like a warm blanket. 

I don't want to give too much away because the plot is the best part of this book. It also dives deep into race, what it means to be a Black person who passes as White (something I've never quite encountered in a novel before and found so fascinating), and twin relationships. It's a family saga for sure, but one that is never slow or expected. It's also often a hard read, but one that is very clearly needed today. I'm glad the book is coming out when it is, and will make the splash I know it will, because it's a vital piece of work needed to be read by many right now.
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