“A body could be labeled but a person couldn’t, and the difference between the two depended on that muscle in your chest.”
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: June 2, 2020
Rate: 3.5 ⭐⭐⭐
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 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 came highly recommended, and it was a very hyped book, that I knew I needed to tone down my expectations because from experience, hyped books tend to be overly hyped and end up being underwhelming, to me. The Vanishing Half was no exception.
What I loved: The dual timelines. I love that we got to experience these characters in different times, it gave a generational tone that I quite enjoyed. The book does tackle social issues in a “not in your face” way and I did appreciate that. The town, Mallard, in itself is a character and I loved learning about it. Having never heard of such a place myself, it was interesting to read about.
The Vanishing Half has identity at its core, and we see that depicted in many ways in the book. Brit Bennett does that so well. The author does talk about colourism, and the act of passing, which is also a major plot line in the book.
“Nothing made a boy less exciting than the fact you were supposed to like him.”
What I didn’t like: The book read like a collection of short stories and that annoyed me more than anything. So many story lines which ended abruptly leaving me, the reader, to wonder. So many underdeveloped characters with zero growth. Considering the book spans across many years, I expected to see some level of growth, but nothing! Still on characters, there are unnecessary characters who we could have done without. We really didn’t need that whole chapter on Stella’s friends, truly. We also deserved a proper conversation between Desiree and Stella and I feel cheated that we did not get one.
The Vanishing Half felt lacking to me. As I was reading all through I felt like there was something missing. It was an okay read for me and I did enjoy some parts, but I felt down altogether.
Have you read The Vanishing Half? What did you think about it?