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Happy New Year! Y’all, when I say 2023 is already off to a bumpy start, I’m not kidding. I spent part of New Year’s Eve in the ER because my oxygen levels dipped courtesy of Covid. If I’ve ever wondered how my family would fare should I take seriously ill, I know they’ll be OK. The Hubs rushed me to the hospital and made sure that everything was good. My daughter took over the care and feeding of Bleu and Lola. And when I got home, she added me to her feeding schedule. LOL The kids who don’t live with us kept me entertained with a steady supply of jokes and memes. I’m happy to say that I’m on the mend, but I still cannot get past the overwhelming exhaustion.

That being said, I did manage to finish reading my first book for 2023. Go, Me! I set a goal for reading 12 books this year, so this has me feeling pretty proud of myself. *insert smiley emoticon* I’m not one of those people who puts a lot of pressure on myself to make my goal, that’s why I keep it low and manageable.

BOOK DETAILS

Title: The Vanishing Half: a novel

Author: Brit Bennett

Genre: Fiction

Format: Paperback

Pages: 389

ABOUT THE BOOK (from the book)

The Vignes 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, although 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’ story lines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations, The Vanishing Half is at once a riveting family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, it considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brit Bennett’s debut novel, The Mothers, was a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for both the NBCC John Leonard First Novel Prize and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. Her second novel, The Vanishing Half, was a finalist for the Women’s Prize and one of the 10 Best Books of 2020, according to The New York Times. Bennett has been named a National Book Foundation 5 under 35 honoree, an NAACP Image Award finalist, and one of Time‘s Next 100 Influential People.

You can find more about Brit Bennett on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. If you’re in a book club, there’s a kit available.

BOOK REVIEW

MY OPINION

The Vanishing Half was a four-star read for me. The characters were well developed and relatable, even if they were unlikeable {Stella, I’m looking at you}. I’m a fan of historical fiction, so I liked that the story progressed through time and covered multiple generations of one family. Knowing the backstory really helped with understanding the characters and what drove them to behave the way they did. And, trust me when I say, there are multiple characters in this story, not just the twins…¬†Even the various locations served as characters, helping to guide the story and explain the human behavior.

In fact, the multiple characters gave the novel a soap opera feel. You know, there was the A story but the B, C, and D stories help to propel the characters and give them definition and a life outside of their main roles. That definitely grabbed and held my attention. I’d say that the side characters were just as real and well-developed as the main characters.

Bennett’s writing style is smooth and the dialogue was believable. Even the series of coincidental meetings were “real world” plausible.

There were so many themes throughout the novel: passing, colorism, racism, and sexism and, even some I didn’t expect such as: identity, queerness, feminism, and more. While on first blush this may seem like a lot of topics to contain in one story, I think it went a long way to show the complexity of human life. We’re not one-dimensional and our issues and experiences aren’t either.

While the over-arching themes of this novel are colorism and racism, the deeper story is the relationship between the women in the novel. I’m a twin, my sister and I are very different. She’s short and brown-skinned with dark hair and eyes, while I’m taller and light-skinned with light hair and eyes. We have both been on the receiving end of colorism and racism and it hurts. So it was easy for me understand life from both Desiree’s and Stella’s point-of-view. I also have relatives who’ve passed so it was interesting to read about how individuals who choose that life have to walk away from everything and everyone.

As a side note, this story covers more than just racial passing. As I wrote before, there are discussions of sexuality and people passing for genders other than their biological ones. I think those stories were handled with love, dignity, and respect. Especially when you consider parts of this story took place during the eighties, which was the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

I did take away a star because I felt like the story leaned a little too heavily on the dark-skinned man as evil trope. For a long time, Black people, especially dark-skinned Black people have been portrayed as menacing and jealous of lighter skinned Black folks and Desiree’s storyline fed into that.

I would recommend this novel for a book club reading because there really is so much to discuss. In fact, this novel is my DEI book club selection and I cannot wait for us to talk.

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IT’S YOUR TURN

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Let’s discuss in the comments below…

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Thanks for reading,

Daenel T {Living Outside the Stacks}

 

 

 

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