Book Review: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Book Review_ The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett feature image

What do you think of when you hear the term racism? How does it make you feel when people are being discriminated against an individual based on their skin color? So here I am reviewing a book that tells you about the story of two twin girls born in the society of racism which is The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.

This novel follows the life of twin sisters. Both are light-skinned dark girls and grew up together in a small black community. I ran away at the age of 16 and chose to live in two different worlds, one as black and one as white. Black woman marries a dark-skinned Black man and has a daughter whereas white one lives her life as white woman, also married a man, has a daughter, but her husband knows nothing about her past because she always hides her identity as a black woman. But as with many lies, the truths of the twins remain intertwined when their daughter’s storyline intersects in the story. 

The novel explores the interaction between class and race and highlights the racial issues and tension in the 1960s, which are still relevant today. The Vanishing half is a gripping emotional family story and a spectacular journey of race, gender. And history kind of keeps enduring these racially and influencing people’s desires and expectations. 

Let’s jump up straight into the book and explore it as much as we can. I will only give you a brief synopsis of the book so don’t expect any spoilers here.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett | Book Review

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett _ Book Review | Author Quotes

About The Author | Brit Bennett

Brit Bennett is an American writer who was born and raised in Oceanside, California, United States. She has done her Bachelor’s degree in English at Stanford University and earned her MFA in fiction at the University of Michigan. She also studied at Oxford University. Her essay has been featured in The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, the Paris Review, and Jezebel.

Her debut novel ‘The mother’ was a New York Times bestseller. Her second novel, The Vanishing half, was also a New York bestseller. Further, it was chosen as a good morning America book club selection. Riverhead Books published the Vanishing half.

Book OverviewThe Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett is a contemporary historical fiction novel published on 2nd June 2020.

This novel was also selected as one of the New York Times’s ten best books of 2020. The novel touches so many different topics in the story: race, class, sexuality, the formation of identity, and identical twins. It covers their story over three decades. The story isn’t told through plot progression and is narrated in different periods and perspectives.

The book is set from 1950s to 1990s and is divided into five parts. The story engages with racism and sexism, about Desiree and Stella’s twin who grew up in a small southern black community in a tiny Louisiana town called Mallard. As children, they witnessed the murder of their father by a group of white, and this happening forever changed their lives and their family dynamics.

Is Vanishing Half a true story? Brit Bennett based her novel on loving mother homes where “everyone was obsessed with color.” Her mother lives in Louisiana, once sharing her story from her childhood about a town where everyone is preoccupied with their skin color. 

Book Summary: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett 

The story follows Desiree and Stella Vignes, born and raised in a small town in Mallard, Louisiana. Their great-great-grandfather created the small southern black community town, and the town was a complete place for light-skinned black people. Both the twins have creamy skin hazel eyes with wavy hair. They can’t save their father from some violent gang of white men as children. Nor were they able to save their mother from poor living her life cleaning rich white people in a neighboring town. 

Desiree feels annoyed with the colorist thinking of her small town and wants to escape. Finally, her twin sister Stella agrees to escape with her. At 16, Desiree and Stella ran away to New Orleans. Life has stopped in New Orleans. To find work as a secretary, Stella changed herself into a white woman and started to earn a higher wage, married Blake, a white man, and had a daughter. Her white husband knows nothing about her past and lives a life full of secrets and fears.

As life is starting to get better for both the ladies, Desiree finds a note from Stella as she has decided to become a full-time white woman. This means Stella is alone now moves to Washington, where she works as a fingerprint analyst for the government and eventually meets and marries a very dark-skinned black man and has a daughter. She married into an abusive relationship, so she decided to leave and then return to the small town where she swore she would never return. 

Since both things happen between Stella and Desiree, they do not speak to each other for years. However, they both have one daughter, cousins who meet each other and build some contact throughout the book. The reason why identical twins reunite after so many years and what will happen next when their own daughter’s storyline intersects in the book.

The Vanishing half Cover image
Source: amina’s Bookshelf

My Thoughts on The Vanishing Half 

One thing we should know is that we cannot run from our past. One way or another, it always comes back to us as it is connected to us. Brit Bennett showed us the same through this book. Two twin girls of very light skinned lives in a black community created by their great-great-grandfather.

Living all their life in that town and annoyed of the frivolous thinking of the people there, both decide to escape and live a different life where one decides to live as a white woman and other lives as a black woman. They both gets separated living the contrast lives until one of the children’s of one of the girls decides to look for the past of her mother and finds her cousin.

Though the story is exciting, the ending doesn’t prove to be as good as I thought. The flow of the story throughout the book just stops immediately at the end making it looking dull. However, I wouldn’t ask anyone to skip it as the overall message and the drama is too good to miss.

Rating of the Book The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett 

The Vanishing half by Brit Bennett deserves 4.5/5 stars from me.

Conclusion & Recommendations of the Book

We are living in the 21st century and yet people are divided based on race at some places. The recent case of George Floyd’s death due to racism was one of the biggest news of the world. I recommend you reading this book atleast once and you will appreciate the author for writing such a classic.

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