Book Reviews

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Turns out that I won The Vanishing Half in a Goodreads giveaway! I had completely forgotten that I had entered (#pandemic) and then it just showed up at my door one day. Gotta love surprise book mail. After all the hype The Vanishing Half was getting on social media, I couldn’t wait to read it.

The Story

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. Many 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’ storylines 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.

the vanishing half

My Thoughts

I gave The Vanishing Half four stars because it was a good story. The book was well written and continued to move. Part of me also felt pressured by what the rest of the world thinks of this book to give it a higher star rating. However, the rest of this review is probably a less than popular opinion of the book.

This book was supposed to be a profound look into the differences between race. It came out in the midst of the uptick in #blacklivesmatter and was so hyped for displaying the differences between blacks and whites. Honestly, I don’t get that. I did not get that vibe from this book.

One of the biggest “things” was that Stella, one of the twins, pretended to be white in order to get a better job. This occurred back in the early 1960s, I believe. (The timelines were troublesome to follow at times. Batched by year, but then months or years would pass for one character only to jump back in time with no clear mention of it.) Yes, racial differences were huge back then.

However, this job as a secretary turned into a marriage with her boss who was independently wealthy. That could happen to anyone. The only time tough race conversations happened was when a black couple wanted to move into a rich, white neighborhood in California.

I don’t know. The Vanishing Half was a good book, and it was written well, but I didn’t understand it’s connection with profound racial issues.

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