Book Review: The Vanishing Half
Wow. I am so excited to review The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett this week! I had hoped to get this review done before class started, but alas. Here it is!
Stella and Desiree Vignes are identical twins who live in a small southern black town. They run away at sixteen and have no intentions of ever returning. Ten years later the twins, who at times seemed more like one person rather than two, are no longer together. Desiree moves back home with her daughter. Stella lives across the country with her white husband and daughter who have no idea that she is black. When their daughters’ paths cross in California, it is inevitable that the secrets and lies will unravel.
Why I picked this book:
As part of my (ongoing) anti-racism education, I wanted to use my love for reading to further my personal education. I have a large list of TBR books written by BIPOC authors, featuring BIPOC characters, some larger historical books that cover specific issues that the BIPOC community faced/faces, and of course books about white fragility/privilege. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett was on a lot of the anti-racism resource pages that I was seeing. This summer I read White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo, and The Vanishing Half seemed like a good way to continue my education while switching over to a plot-based book.
I truly don’t know if I have ever read a book that I loved as much as The Vanishing Half.
First and foremost, Brit Bennett’s writing is beautiful. I enjoyed the way the story flipped from different points of view and did not find that confusing. On the contrary, I felt like it added to the overall story because we were getting the experiences of each character first-hand.
Second, this book covered a lot of really important issues. Race, identity, gender, class, relationships, sexual abuse, domestic violence… as so many others have said in reviews before me, I will most definitely be thinking about this book for a while. I appreciate the ways Bennett handled each of these issues. Nothing seemed too far-fetched. And rarely were any of the issues glorified. Rather, they were painted as they are in reality. Everything was, for lack of better wording, very real.
Finally, something that really stuck out to me were the mother-daughter relationships. I felt my heart break for Jude and Kennedy on more than one occasion. Jude clearly cares so much about Desiree, but she cannot tell her about her boyfriend. Kennedy spends her entire life trying to get Stella to pay attention to her, never truly knowing who her mother is. Neither relationship is perfect, though Jude’s is obviously preferable, but I appreciate how Bennett kept it that way. I personally felt like it would have been wrong to wrap the book up with a family reunion at the funeral, and while others might have preferred that type of “happy ending,” I felt like it was perfect as it was written.
The Bookish Bronde Rating
I am a white, cis-gender female. I feel relatively confident in my identity. By nature, I have certain privileges. The Vanishing Half was exceptionally thought-provoking in many respects, and I cannot recommend this book enough. I am SO glad I picked up a hard copy of this one, because it’s something I will read over and over again!