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The Vanishing Half

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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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Review time: (Soul Searching Edition)
Babyyyyyy let me tell you! The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett @britrbennett Thank you @riverheadbooks for this galley because this has definitely been an emotional rollercoaster of a ride for me... The Vanishing half has left me spent! Like how far would you go to clarify changing your overall existence? How do you want to be remembered? What's the true cost of identity freedom? This is the modern day Passing times 1,000. I loved the reference to one of my all time favorite plays ”A Street Car Named Desire” but in no way is it play on the actual play itself. This book addresses so much. It is completely loaded... I didn't know what I was walking into reading this but I did walk out with a lot. Read this. Pre-order. Post order (Alladat) 
Synopsis:

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? 
#blackgirlreads #ownvoices #blackbookblogging #bookblogger #blackbookbloggers #readingandreviewing #bookstagram #heritage #fortheculture  #quarantinereads
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Readers will be engrossed by the fully formed characters of the Vignes twins as they take drastically different paths in life. With its thought provoking and human treatment of race and sexuality, this book is perfect for book clubs.
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Brit Bennett is an incredibly gifted storyteller; once you pick up The Vanishing Half, you won't want to put it down.   The story alternates between the lives of twin sisters who choose very different paths; this family saga tackles the issues of racism, privilege, and gender in a compelling and engaging way.  
Thank you to NetGalley for the advance copy of this novel!
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Brit Bennet is an amazing writer and storyteller. This book is packed with well-developed characters and well thought out storylines. I couldn't put it down.
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Ms. Bennett is a fantastic author with the gift for saying a lot simply. Her writing is quietly powerful and, like The Mothers, this is a thoroughly engrossing story with such a unique premise. The story and the characters will stay with readers long after finishing this book.
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A gorgeous, searing novel about family and choices and consequences. And explicit racism and implicit bias and colorism and all of the ugly stuff our country continues to grapple with. Desiree and Stella... Jude and Kennedy... Early... Reese... I loved getting to be there as the layers were peeled back. And was sorry to reach the final page.
Brit Bennett is masterful.

Thank you, NetGalley and Riverhead Books for the electronic ARC.
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Thanks to partners NetGalley and Edelweiss for egalley copies of Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half in exchange for an honest review. The book releases Tuesday, June 2.

Brit Bennett’s debut novel The Mothers was one of my favorite reads of 2017, so I was thrilled when I saw that she had written a new novel . . . but also nervous. Could The Vanishing Half possibly live up to Bennett’s amazing first novel? I’m happy to share that it absolutely does.

Desiree and Stella Vignes are twins growing up in the tiny town of Mallard, Louisiana, an all-black town whose citizens are “colorstruck.” Founded by Alphonse Decuir in 1848, Mallard’s residents marry and procreate in hopes of subsequently whiter generations. Desiree and Stella are born into this hierarchy, prime examples of the success of the town’s goals. The family’s lightness, however, does not prevent tragedy, and the girls experience firsthand the ugliness of racism in a horrific event that changes the course of their lives.

Desiree and Stella’s identities revolve around each other–they are always “the twins,” and their similarities emphasize their differences. Desiree is the bolder sister: she’s a bold, unrestrained performer, while Stella is disciplined and quiet. Desiree yearns, from the time she’s small, to leave Mallard, so it’s a surprise when Stella is the one who pushes for their flight.

It’s here–in events that precede the first page of the novel–that this multi-generational story really begins: with the girls’ departure from the tiny town that has so defined who they are. Bennett skillfully moves between time periods and generations, between different characters’ points of view. There’s a beautiful sense, when the story is in Mallard, of the collective consciousness of the town that reminded me of The Mothers. But she branches out from that telling to explore other perspectives.

The author spins a story around a fate split in two, as one twin marries a man much darker than herself and the other begins to pass as white. The separation of the twins is the catalyst for a beautifully written novel–I could not stop highlighting sentences in this book!–that focuses, really, on how we name ourselves, how we label our identities. Through the stories of Desiree and Stella and those who follow, Bennett explores an array of characters who are trying to define who they are, both for themselves and for others. The questions here are universal: How much of who we are is a performance? How much does our identity depend on our appearance? Can we name our identity–our race, our gender, our lifestyle–and shape it through that naming?

Bennett has a deft touch with character, creating people whose struggles and triumphs are authentic and moving. I didn’t always like the choices that the characters of The Vanishing Half made, but I understood them and, ultimately, sympathized with them. This is a beautiful, important, thought-provoking novel that I would definitely recommend to a friend and would happily read again.
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This is the first novel I've read by Brit Bennett and I enjoyed it very much,  It is a family saga of identical female twins who choose totally different paths in life.

The novel starts in Mallard, Louisiana, a town so small that it is not on any map.  Mallard is populated by very light skinned black people who make their living primarily by farming, construction and cleaning the homes of white people.  Stella and Desiree Vignes are identical twins being raised by their grandmother.  Desiree especially, desperately wants to leave Mallard and start a new life somewhere else.  When they are 16, they both run away to New Orleans and this is where the story gets very interesting.

The novel spans 50 years, from the 1950's until the 1990's.  Once in New Orleans, both find it difficult to get any job other than menial work.  Through a stroke of luck, and a decision to pass as white, Stella lands a job as a secretary in a large firm. She continues to live her life as a white woman.  Desiree ends up in D.C., living with an abusive husband and a daughter, trying to find a way to get out of this situation.

It is so easy to provide spoilers for this book that I won't give any more plot away.  The novel tackles issues of racism, socioeconomic differences, LGBTQ concerns, and the questions that most of us face as we try to find our way in life, to recognize the north star that guides our actions and beliefs.

The novel is very well plotted and smoothly traverses the years and geography that separate the Vignes family.  I thought about giving it a '5' but I felt that some of the character development could have been deeper.  There probably wasn't enough time (or pages) to develop all of the protagonists to the degree I prefer.  This is definitely a thoughtful novel that brings up many contemporary issues.  It is a good read and kept me interested throughout.
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This book was an easy read I kept wanting to pick it up and read. The plot was extremely well thought out and intricately woven together. It made you think. The author payed close attention to detail. I enjoyed the book. The book is a work of art.
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I loved The Vanishing Half. Loved, loved, loved it. The story is told through alternating perspectives and timelines, ranging from the 1950s to the 1990s. Each of the characters are so deeply developed that it is easy to understand why each woman makes the decisions that she does; each thinking they are the best choices for both themselves and the people that they love. The book also highlights the lengths that people will go to in order to build the life that they envision for themselves.
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The Vanishing Half is an amazing, beautifully written novel about twin sisters born into a poor family in a small town in Louisiana of light skinned African American. After a tragic event that mars their childhood,  at 16 they run away together for a different life in New Orleans.  However, shortly after their move, the sisters will separate and live very different lives.  Desiree will marry an abusive man, give birth to a daughter, and eventually move back to her hometown.  Stella will chose to pass as white, marry her boss, and leave her past behind.  The story follow both sisters and their daughters through the decades.  Eventually their lives intersect again. This book has so much depth and nuance, is impossible to put down, and is an amazing commentary on race in America.
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