THE SUNDAY TIMES TOP BESTSELLER
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
SHORTLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE
LONGLISTED FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE
'An utterly mesmerising novel..I absolutely loved this book' Bernardine Evaristo, winner of the Booker Prize 2019
'Epic' Kiley Reid, O, The Oprah Magazine
'Favourite book [of the] year' Issa Rae
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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Brit Bennett wowed us with her debut, The Mothers, and her second novel is equally riveting. The story starts in the late 1960s, when light-skinned black twins Desiree and Stella embark on starkly contrasting paths. Desiree marries “the darkest man she could find” and gets stuck in her rural Louisiana hometown, while Stella disappears to a wealthy L.A. enclave where she passes for white. Bennett moves briskly through two decades, as the fates of the sisters and their daughters become unexpectedly intertwined. Suspenseful yet tender, The Vanishing Half explores complex issues like racism, white privilege and the many ways our identity is shaped by our origins. We’re still thinking about this stunning read.
Bennett (The Mothers) explores a Louisiana family's navigation of race, from the Jim Crow era through the 1980s, in this impressive work. The Vignes twins, Desiree and Stella, were born and raised in Mallard, La., the slave-born founder of which imagined a town with "each generation lighter than the one before." In the early 1940s, when the twins are little, they witness their father's lynching, and as they come of age, they harbor ambitions to get out. Desiree, the more headstrong sister, leads Stella to New Orleans when they are 16, and after a few months, the quiet, studious Stella, who once dreamt of enrolling in an HBCU, disappears one night. In 1968, 14 years later, still with no word from Stella, Desiree is back in Mallard with her eight-year-old daughter, Jude, having left her abusive ex-husband. When Jude is older, she makes her own escape from Mallard to attend college in Los Angeles. At a party, Jude glimpses a woman who looks exactly like Desiree except she couldn't be, because this woman is white. Eventually, the Vignes twins reunite, reckoning with the decisions that have shaped their lives. Effortlessly switching between the voices of Desiree, Stella, and their daughters, Bennett renders her characters and their struggles with great compassion, and explores the complicated state of mind that Stella finds herself in while passing as white. This prodigious follow-up surpasses Bennett's formidable debut.
Still thinking about it…. So many different aspects and emotions in this book. Beautiful told.
So many layers can’t wait to see HBO make it into a mini series!!
Half and half
African-American. Born and raised in So-Cal. Graduate of Stanford and the MFA program at University of Michigan. Short fiction published in all the right places. Her debut novel, The Mothers (2016), was a bildungsroman about three young black people raised in a Christian community. I gave it four stars.
Light skinned African-Americans have better lives if they "pass" as white. Or do they?
Race, poverty, domestic abuse, gender
Desiree and Stella are twins raised in a small community called Mallard in rural Louisiana, where everyone's light-skinned. Mallard is so small it doesn't appear on maps. When the gals turn 16 (in the late 1950s) and their Mom pulls them out of school and sends them to work as housemaids for rich white folk, they do a runner in the middle of the night to The Big Easy (New Orleans) two hours away. From there, their paths diverge, as implied by the premise. Stella takes off with her white boss. Desiree marries the blackest black man she can find in Washington DC (an FBI agent) and has a daughter who takes after Dad colour-wise. Dad's is also a wife beater, so in the late 60s (soon after MLK's assassination), Desiree goes back home to Momma. Her daughter Jude is "blue-black" and fits in poorly in light skinned Mallard. She wins an athletic scholarship to UCLA where she discovers crossdressers and stumbles upon her "white" cousin. Stuff happens. Family reconciliation of sorts is achieved.
Four part first person (the twins and their two daughters) alternating. Flashbacks as required within each narrative. Sounds messy when I write it down but in Ms Bennett's hands, it works like a dream.
Crisp, clear, artfully constructed. As good as it gets. The Mothers showed promise. This is the real deal.
The portrayal of the protagonists and several of the supporting cast is nothing short of magnificent.
Character driven contemporary fiction doesn't get better than this.