'The Vanishing Half is an utterly mesmerising novel. It seduces with its literary flair, surprises with its breath-taking plot twists, delights with its psychological insights, and challenges us to consider the corrupting consequences of racism on different communities and individual lives. I absolutely loved this book' Bernardine Evaristo, winner of the Booker Prize 2019
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.
Praise for Brit Bennett:
'A writer to watch' Washington Post
'Bennett allows her characters to follow their worst impulses, and she handles provocative issues with intelligence, empathy and dark humour' New York Times
'A beautifully written, sad and lingering book' Guardian on The Mothers
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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
One of the best books of 2020
This was probably one of the first adult contemporary books that I’ve read and I LOVED IT!
Britt Bennet’s writing is actually amazing and captivating to read. The story explores not only racism, but also the impact of colourism, family dynamics and the impact that white passing has on a black person. I also enjoy that one sister’s story wasn’t more interesting than the other. It was nice to see both the main character’s grow and their children!
The only thing I would say is that the ending… THE ENDING! Younger me would have disliked the ending because it wasn’t a traditional ‘happy ending’ but that is the