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The Vanishing Half

by Brit Bennett

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,0852022,497 (4.08)265
"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' storylines 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. As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise"--… (more)
  1. 30
    Passing by Nella Larsen (bhowell)
    bhowell: Passing by Nella Larsen is classic literature and a look at the same issue early in the 20th century
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» See also 265 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 191 (next | show all)
Bennett, Brit. The Vanishing Half. Riverhead Books, 2020.
In Brit Bennett’s second novel, The Vanishing Half, few characters could say they are comfortable in their skin. Everything in the novel’s vision of mid-twentieth-century American life confounds the notion of personal and cultural identity. Almost everyone in the novel is beset by conflicts involving race, gender, and class. Our protagonists, Desiree and Stella, are twins who also have trouble seeing themselves as independent of one another. One marries her white boss and passes for white while the other marries a dark-skinned man and eventually returns to the African American community she grew up in. Their children, raised separately, struggle with their own sets of identity issues. Racial passing stories have a long literary history that includes such prominent authors as Mark Twain, Kate Chopin, James Weldon Johnson, Charles W. Chesnutt, Langston Hughes, and Nella Larsen. The strength of Bennett’s book is not just that it joins this parade but that it extends and modernizes it. America, evidently, still divides us from ourselves in more ways than one. 4 stars. ( )
  Tom-e | Dec 4, 2022 |
While the premise of this book is rather intriguing, the story itself as written, left me feeling like a rock skipping across the top of water.

There is quite a lot going on in this novel; colorism, racism, classism, deceit, identity crisis, LGBTQI, Alzheimer’s, the role of women in society, domestic abuse, and that's just off the top of my head. These are all big topics by themselves, unfortunately, none of them really gets explored or discussed. Hence the feeling of skipping along.

The book covers a thirty year time span - 1950’s through the 1980’s. There’s a load of historical events that occur during this time span and, again, they are mere mentions or blips on the timeline. The characters barely react or acknowledge any of these events. I think this book could have been much more interesting if set in a single decade. The portion that takes place during the 50's - 60's was probably the best - in my opinion anyway.

While the story is OK, the writing, at times, can be somewhat clunky. There were a few times where it wasn’t immediately apparent as to which character’s point of view I was reading or what time period I was in or even what location I was at.

I really don’t like to dissuade anyone from reading a book, but for me, this one was a bit disappointing. The concept of identical twin sisters separating and living completely different lives, with one twin "passing over" to live as a white woman seemed very interesting. Unfortunately, the story went in too many directions without giving the characters enough definition. I felt as though there was so much build up for a major crescendo that never materialized. The ending felt rushed to me and fell flat of what I was hoping for.

“The Vanishing Half” isn’t awful. This is great book for anyone looking for that airport/beach read. ( )
  phidgt | Dec 2, 2022 |
This was a beautiful book examining identity and belonging. It was beautifully written and you could clearly see in your mind the pictures that the author was drawing. It was sad in many ways, but very beautiful in others. Loved it. ( )
  Anniik | Nov 26, 2022 |
I really enjoyed this book and story. I liked the duality of the characters and how they changed over time. ( )
  bookburner451 | Nov 19, 2022 |
This story was a fantastic read that even had me on the edge of my seat towards the end. The story stretches from the 1960s to the 1980s, told from different perspectives. It begins in a small town in Louisiana with the Vignes family who had twin girls. This is a black town but everyone is very pale. We witness segregation and brutality before the twins run away to New Orleans and after a while they go their separae ways. Stella passes as white and marries a wealthy white man, Desiree moves north, marries a black man. Both have daughters but only Desiree returns to their home town to live. The book moves around the US and follows the two twins and their daughters with themes of family, truth and lies, sexuality, identity, education and class as well as race. It is well written I could feel the heat of LA and see the well-to-do estate, I sat in the down at heel theatre, I walked the streets of New York and I could see the rooms of the family home in the small town. The novel covers a lot of issues but does not sacrifice the tale for making a point. ( )
  CarolKub | Nov 11, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 191 (next | show all)
The Vanishing Half is the fairy tale we need right now to tell us the truth....

All of these events unfold with the inevitability of a folktale or a fable — which is how The Vanishing Half, with its many folklorish narrative extravagances, reads. This book is not interested in literary realism. It is a fairy tale, and it makes no apologies for being so....But within its fairy-tale structure, The Vanishing Half is able to be ambitious with its characters. ...Reading The Vanishing Half at this moment in time, as America protests against the police killings of black people and the police respond with brutality, feels like reading a parable that is wiser and more beautiful than we deserve. One that is built around all the secrets buried in the rotten core of America’s racial history.

There is deep truth within fairy tales. And with The Vanishing Half, Bennett has written a marvel of one.
 
A new novel explores the construct of race in the diverging lives of light-skinned black twins, one of whom transitions into a life as a white woman....Issues of privilege, intergenerational trauma, the randomness and unfairness of it all, are teased apart in all their complexity, within a story that also touches on universal themes of love, identity and belonging.

“The Vanishing Half,” with its clever premise and strongly developed characters, is unputdownable.
 
Race is much on America’s mind now, in all the myriad ways it shapes our lives, whatever color our skin might be. It also lies at the heart of Brit Bennett’s moving and insightful new novel, The Vanishing Half, the story of twin sisters who choose to live their lives as different races, one black, one white....The Vanishing Half is skillfully structured and filled with richly developed characters who defy stereotypes. By turns poignant and funny, it’s a timely look at the dual nature of race — an abstract construct, a visceral reality — and the damage that racism can inflict.
 

» Add other authors (23 possible)

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Brit Bennettprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bogdan, IsabelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The morning one of the lost twins returned to Mallard, Lou LeBon ran to the diner to break the news, and even now, many years later, everyone remembers the shock of sweaty Lou pushing through the glass doors, chest heaving, neckline darkened with his own effort.
Quotations
The hardest part about becoming someone else was deciding to. The rest was only logistics.
She had rung the bell, and all her life, the note would hang in the air.
Like leaving, the hardest part of returning was deciding to.
Her death hit in waves. Not a flood, but water lapping steadily at her ankles.

You could drown in two inches of water. Maybe grief was the same.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"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' storylines 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. As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise"--

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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?

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.
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