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The Vanishing Half Review: Back-of-Book Description
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
ONE OF BARACK OBAMA’S FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR
NAMED A BEST BOOK OF 2020 BY THE NEW YORK TIMES * THE WASHINGTON POST * NPR * PEOPLE * TIME MAGAZINE* VANITY FAIR * GLAMOUR
2021 WOMEN’S PRIZE FINALIST
“Bennett’s tone and style recalls James Baldwin and Jacqueline Woodson, but it’s especially reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s 1970 debut novel, The Bluest Eye.” —Kiley Reid, Wall Street Journal
“A story of absolute, universal timelessness …For any era, it’s an accomplished, affecting novel. For this moment, it’s piercing, subtly wending its way toward questions about who we are and who we want to be….” – Entertainment Weekly
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?
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.
My Thoughts on The Vanishing Half
This book was an option one month from Book of The Month. I remember reading the description but then not choosing it. A month or so later in 2020 a lot of black authors were getting attention and people were actively sharing ways to support black business owners, black authors, etc. and this book was mentioned with a whole lot of praise and positive reviews.
So I decided to add The Vanishing Half to my box on BOTM the next time around. I felt excited that I was getting something everyone raved about, but still…I let it sit on my shelf for over a year.
Then, in February of 2022, I decided it was time to pick it up. It was a little slow at the beginning and it took me a day or two to get into it. But the writing itself was really good and I could tell that the characters the author was building were going to be interesting.
So I stuck with it and I was really glad I did. The line on the back-of-book description is really accurate: an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise.
The story spans several decades and you get to know a lot of interesting characters and the issues they’re facing, the things they worry about and struggle with. Not to give anything away, but in addition to main characters of a different race than me, there’s also a trans character. I think it’s important to read about people who are different from you – as I mentioned in my review of How Lucky – and this book gave me that on several levels.
I really appreciated the diverse viewpoints as well as the different time periods in which the story took place. It was thought-provoking and I think it would make a really great book club choice – so many discussions to be had!
I really appreciated the diverse viewpoints as well as the different time periods in which the story took place. It was thought-provoking and I think it would make a really great #bookclub choice! Click To Tweet
Even though I had never been to the locations the author wrote about, and certainly not in the time periods she wrote about, it was relatively easy to picture everything. Her descriptions were clear and well written. So too, were the characters and their stories. The dialogue was also fitting for the time period and sounded natural.
Favorite Quotes from The Vanishing Half
“The only difference between lying and acting was whether or not your audience was in on it, but it was all a performance just the same.”
“…what was the point of sharing good news with someone who couldn’t be happy for you?”
“This was his gift, a short memory. A long memory could drive a man crazy.”
“People thought that being one of a kind made you special. No, it just made you lonely. What was special was belonging with someone else.”
“This big ol’ world and we only get to go through it once. The saddest thing there is, [if] you ask me.”
“The hardest part about becoming someone else was deciding to. The rest was only logistics.”
“This was what she loved about math: it was the same now as it had been then, and there was always a correct answer, whether she knew it or not. She found that comforting.”
The Vanishing Half Review: In Conclusion
I really liked this book and I’m glad I read it. 4 stars. The only drawbacks were that it was slow getting into it and I think the ending just kind of fizzled – it didn’t really wrap anything up, in my opinion. So you’re kind of left to wonder what everyone does and how things go. But I really enjoyed the story and the writing, overall. It made me consider things and situations from a different perspective – which was probably the author’s objective – and I like that.
I would recommend The Vanishing Half to people who like dramas and historical fiction, and who want to expand their comfort zone and think about things from new perspectives. It would probably make a great gift!
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