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
From the author: “I wrote this book because I wanted to explore questions about race, and the absurdity and the complexity and the unknowability of the contradictions of race that we sit in and live through. So it was very strange to have people really eager to read about race [in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests] at the moment when I just happened to be publishing The Vanishing Half. The idea of Mallard came from a conversation with my mother who mentioned a town in Louisiana she heard about as a child, where light-skinned Black people inter-married so that their children would get lighter. It was strange and very striking to me. And it immediately felt like the setting for a novel. As soon as I thought about the town, I knew that I wanted to write about twins—they were a fun way to dramatise a lot of these questions that I was interested in about identity, personality, nature versus nurture, and how we make choices to become the people we are. Stella, the twin who disappears, was challenging to me in a lot of different ways, because she has a complicated psychology and she’s full of contradictions. But I enjoyed that challenge, and the journey of trying to figure out this person who does things that I have a very difficult time ever imagining myself doing. But at the same time, I wanted to render them in a way that didn’t feel judgmental and which, in fact, felt complicated and empathetic.”
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.
Interesting and heart warming
Good to see the life through the eyes of another ethnicity, getting to know the characters well and feel like you become involved in rheir life, a good read and I would recommend it to anyone!!!
Massive kudos to Britt Bennett for taking us through a whimsical journey with Stella & Desiree. I felt so engrossed and immersed into this storyline, that I couldn’t fathom putting it down for just a second!
I’d recommend this book to anyone looking to take their imagination on a wild course. A++
I found this book interesting and a great read. Well written but so what confusing at times.