Book Review – The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

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. Ten 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’ story lines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins

Published 11th June 2020 by Dialogue Books (UK)

The Vanishing Half caught my attention a few weeks ago after reading some raving reviews and I requested it from Netgalley immediately. Not having read Brit Bennett’s previous book, I went in with no expectation but man, does this book live up to it’s high praise

Telling the stories of twin sisters, Stella and Desiree Vignes, brought up in a small town in 1960’s America where unusually, the community is almost entirely made up of light skinned black people. When the twins run away from their small town, and eventually separate, one will end up returning to the place she tried to escape while the other will pass herself off as white, living a life that otherwise she wouldn’t have been able to access but also living a lie

Wow. This book is amazing. There’s just so much to think about as it takes on issues of race, identity, gender, prejudice, belonging and so much more. It’s timely, insightful and thought provoking. The comparisons between the two sisters lives, and that of their daughters, are both shocking and heartbreaking

Brit Bennett’s writing is gorgeous. I couldn’t put this book down, becoming fully invested in not just Desiree and Stella’s lives, but their daughters Jude and Kennedy, two completely different girls who both feel the ripples of their mother’s choices. I read it over a couple of days and when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it and desperate to return. I can’t recommend this beautiful book enough, and I’ll certainly be picking up Brit’s previous book as soon as I can. A must read

Thanks to the publisher for my #gifted copy

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