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Review: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Title: The Vanishing Half
Author: Brit Bennett
Year Published: 2020

Genre: Adult fiction (thriller)
Pages: 352
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2020 Google Reading map)USA (LA, CA)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): 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 secretly 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.

As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise.

Review: I was really excited when I saw this book on my Book of the Month list in June and before I got to it, I had heard only good things, to which I will add my praise.

Bennett's descriptions of the small Louisiana town where Desiree and Stella grew up were good; I could see and feel the town as I was being introduced to the characters and the story. And the concept of a town made up of light skinned Black people who shun darker skinned folx is intriguing and depressing. Colorism is an issue in most communities of color (and, oddly, the opposite in white communities where people strive for a tan) and is a central theme in this book.

As the girls strike out on their own, Stella begins to pass (as white), entering a world very different from her upbringing and the life of her twin. Seeing life through both sets of eyes is both devastating and intriguing; how their lives parallel one another and converge kept me turning pages to finish this book in just a few days.

If you like reading about family sagas, race relations, sisters, and multi-generations, then I highly recommend reading this book.

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