Sometimes, you’ve got to read something that’s just way beyond your usual comfort zone. And luckily, I now have a book club that forces me to do just that. Last month, we read I Am Pilgrim, which was… an experience. This month? Well, let’s just say The Vanishing Half‘s author didn’t do anything by halves!
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.
| C – characters |
A – atmosphere
W – writing
P – plot
I – intrigue
L – logic
E – enjoyment
Here’s the thing about this story: it took me a while to realise how important a tale it was, that I was reading. Brit Bennett’s writing style is so fluid, so perfect to ease yourself into, that she manages to head you over the head with about 4 different life-altering realisations, before you’ve even figured out what’s going on.
Or at least – that’s what happened to me.
Now, there’s a lot of racial issues being tackled in this book, and I have to admit: I was kind of scared that would be done in a “heavy” way. However, whether it’s the racial issues, the gender issues, or even just the question of who you are when someone else literally has the same DNA… The Vanishing Half touches on all of those topics in such a gentle, understanding way, that you feel like you really understand the perspective of each single character.
Does that mean I necessarily liked all of the characters? Big nope. Stella, in particular? Not my type of person. However, the concept of hiding who you are, of wanting to fit in and the constant fear that brings with it – I figure that’s something almost everyone can connect to, right? Life’s a play and all that jazz, after all.
The rating: 4.5/5
Honestly, I was surprised at how quickly I basically flew through this story – as I mentioned before: not what I was expecting, at all. All in all, though, The Vanishing Half might just be the revelation of 2021 for me – and it’s only May! (Goodreads, TheStoryGraph).