Wow. Just wow. This book was as beautiful as it's cover (which is a hard act to follow because this cover, though.) The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett might be one of the biggest, most talked about new releases in 2020. It has been all over my feed and has been featured as one of the GMA book club choices, as well as countless articles promoting this gorgeous book. I went into it blind and a little apprehensive, given all the buzz it has received.
Brit Bennett did not disappoint and her sophomore novel lives up to all the hype. Between the intriguing storyline, the well-crafted characters, and the stories that intertwined and covered heavy and important topics. The world needed this book and she delivered. Ugh, I couldn't get enough! Not to mention this book was unintentionally well timed for it's publication date. Brit Bennett had no idea what shape the world would be in when her book was published, but it came out shortly after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. The nation was in turmoil with mourning George's death, the systemic racism that has permeated our beings, and the multitude of injustices that the Black community faces every day. The Vanishing Half swept social media and rightfully so, because this book covers race and the nuances of racism, as well as colorism, racial identity, sexuality, and familial relationships.
Stella and Desiree are twins, but for as much as they look alike, they are both so different. Stella is studious and follows the rules, Desiree marches to the beat of her own drum. At the age of 16, the twins decide to run away from their small Louisiana town with an obsession of to start new lives. They move to New Orleans and eventually, take separate paths. Fast forward ten years, Desiree has a seven year old daughter, Jude, and comes back to her small hometown and moves back in with her mother. She has not seen her sister since they went separate ways years prior. What has become of Stella? Will Desiree ever see her again? The ache for her twin sister is with her everyday.
The storyline alternates between Desiree and Stella's story, and Jude's life, until the stories intertwine and meld together. Brit crafted these chapters brilliantly and the story flowed smoothly between the characters and the changing timelines. This was the first book I read where colorism and racial identity were dissected in such a way that was incredibly eye opening. The book begins in the late 1960's where segregation and Jim Crow are ingrained in the Black community. The town that Stella and Desiree live in prides itself on having residents that are "lighter skinned" Black folk. The discrimination that takes place within races over the variances in color were powerful and a story that needed to be shared. Colorism played a role in Jude's story and racial identity played a major role in Stella's story. I also adored Jude's story as she falls in love with Reese, a trans man who is still grappling with his own sexual identity. Ugh, to say I loved these characters is an understatement.
After I read The Vanishing Half, I listened to The Stacks podcast episode with Brit Bennett and developed an even deeper appreciation for this book. I highly recommend you listen to The Stacks podcast episode where Traci interviews Brit Bennett about her book, The Vanishing Half. Click here to listen now!
Happy reading (and listening!)