Book Review: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Adult Fiction // Categories: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Release Date: June 2, 2020
Publisher: Riverhead Books (Penguin Random House)
Format: Hardcover • 352 pages
Rating: 4 stars

"Telling Stella a secret was like whispering into a jar and screwing the lid tight. Nothing escaped her. But she hadn’t imagined then that Stella was keeping secrets of her own."

The Vanishing Half begins with two twin sisters who run away from their small town to find freedom and make something more of their lives. After fourteen years, one returns with her "blueblack" daughter and the other has left all she knows behind to pass and live as a white woman.

Brit Bennett does an excellent job at exploring how something as unimportant as skin color alone dictates the way people think. Everyone in Mallard, the small town that Desiree and Stella grew up in, favors fair skin. This community knows they would "never be accepted as white" but they refuse "to be treated like Negroes." So when Desiree brings her dark baby back with her, they have a lot to say. And even before Stella encounters the Black family that moves in across the street from her, she has already formed an opinion about them.

With the choices that each twin makes about how they want to live, we see how it impacts their well-being and relationships with everyone around them, especially their daughters. For Stella, did hiding the thing she thought would cage her grant the freedom she dreamed of?

Because it is a character-driven novel, it does read a little slow—but it was worth it! I do wish we could've learned a little more about Desiree and what she was thinking during the later time periods, but maybe that comes out in how her daughter Jude views herself.

I just love the way Brit Bennett wove this story through two people who look exactly the same and were raised with the same experiences, but had such different thoughts about being Black.

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