Cover Image: The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

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.
Was this review helpful?
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
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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!
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
Many of us wonder what our lives might have been like if... In this tale of twins who took very different paths, it is interesting to see how their choices play out.  I was pulled in by the story of Stella and Desiree and wasn't expecting to be so engaged with the next generation of this family. Wondering how the various storylines would come together kept me turning pages. I enjoy a novel with alternating perspectives and I think Brit Bennett moved among viewpoints well. I would be interested in a sequel with Jude!
Was this review helpful?
The Vanishing Half is the story of the Vignes twins, Stella and Desiree. Two light-skinned black women who were born identical but whose lives have since taken very different paths. When they were 16, they decided to leave the small, southern community they grew up in and head to New Orleans to start their own lives. However, after embarking on this joint venture together, Stella decides to leave New Orleans on her own. She marries a white man and lives her life passing, constantly worried that her neighbors and friends will find out about her past. And some years later, Desiree ends up returning to their hometown with her daughter in tow, as she flees an abusive relationship. Bennett then widens the scope of her story generationally when the lives of Stella and Desiree’s daughters intersect. What follows is an incredibly captivating story about race, identity, relationships, and motherhood.

I couldn’t put this book down once I had picked it up. The pacing, the characters, the story, everything was so perfectly done. It’s one of those books that handle multiple perspectives expertly, each character filling out and moving along the story. It never lags. It never meanders. It’s just a wonderful book that covers complex topics with compassion and precision. If you enjoyed Nella Larsen’s Passing, you will also love this book.
Was this review helpful?
I enjoyed The Mothers by Brit Bennett so I was thrilled to see she has a new book. I was not disappointed at all as this book is well written, engaging, and thought-provoking. Twin sisters, who were very close growing up, leave their hometown, together, when they are teens. The decisions they make for their lives lead them down very different paths. This is a novel that explores family, identity, and race.
Was this review helpful?
A well done sophomore effort by Brit Bennett.  Perhaps a few of the devices were a little overdone, but overall a good read.
Was this review helpful?
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett explores the topic of race and its impact on a family in a very unique way. A set of twin sisters growing up in the deep south in the 1960s decide to each go her own way and live completely separate lives- one as a white woman and one as a black woman. We learn that their decision impacts not only themselves, but their entire family for multiple generations. 
The story is engaging and the characters are well developed. The story is told from the point of view of various members of the Vignes family and through their struggles and triumphs, you learn the motivations behind each decision made, and some unlikely heroes emerge. This is a story about family, love, loss, and in the end acceptance. What it means to be accepted by others, but more importantly, how to accept yourself.
Was this review helpful?
I’m judging a 2020 fiction contest. It’d be generous to call what I’m doing upon my first cursory glance—reading. I also don’t take this task lightly. As a fellow writer and lover of words and books, I took this position—in hopes of being a good literary citizen. My heart aches for all the writers who have a debut at this time. What I can share now is the thing that held my attention and got this book from the perspective pile into the read further pile. 

This is an expertly plotted novel. I read it the whole way through in two sittings. There were times when I questioned authenticity when representing queer life in L.A., for instance, I wished she made reference to actual queer spaces, but she hits these perfect notes throughout like:
"Lightness like anything inherited at great cost was a lonely gift."
and 
"The key to staying lost was to never love anything."
 As a light-skinned biracial person, there was so much of this novel that rung true to me and I'll be thinking about this novel a long time.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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
Was this review helpful?